President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders began their sales pitch in earnest for the sprawling Covid relief package at a triumphant Rose Garden event Friday.
A day after Biden delivered a sober prime-time address on his effort to defeat the pandemic, the president joined Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to celebrate enactment of the $1.9 trillion measure.
Biden emphasized Friday that he delivered on his promise to pass sweeping Covid relief and said that he views this legislation as merely the beginning of the administration’s efforts. He also praised the party leaders who were his partners in getting it done.
“What you shepherded through the Congress not only meets the moment, it does even more,” Biden said. “It’s historical, and they call it transformational.”
The package, which the Biden administration has called the American Rescue Plan, includes $1,400 checks for many Americans, expanded unemployment assistance and funds to help schools reopen and boost vaccination efforts. Biden said it would make a “concrete” impact on the lives of millions of Americans and touted it as the largest investment in child care since World War II.
“It changes the paradigm,” Biden added. “For the first time in a long time, this bill puts working people in this nation first.”
Biden is aggressively selling the stimulus package, with plans to travel the country and lay out the package’s benefits in what a senior Biden official called the “Help Is Here Tour.” Administration officials are eager to avoid what they see as the party’s mistake from the past: appearing to let policy speak for itself. But Democrats have also cautioned Biden to not come off as disconnected from those still struggling even as the economy improves.
Administration officials, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, all hit the morning television shows Friday to tout the package. Schumer called the legislation the most significant in decades, emphatically repeating that “help is on the way” and praising Biden and Congress for getting the bill through.
Republicans have criticized the package as a liberal wishlist that wasn’t narrowly focused on the coronavirus. Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the bill, but the Biden administration has frequently pointed to polling showing the measure is widely popular among Americans.
Pelosi framed the legislation as “unity on behalf of all of the American people.”
In his presidential address Thursday night, Biden discussed the package only briefly and focused more on urging states to make all of the country’s adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1 and mourning all that has been lost during the pandemic. He said he hopes the country is nearer to normal by July 4.
“After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special,” he said in Thursday’s speech. “Where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”
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