Biden and officials to hold events across the US to sell American Rescue Plan

New Covid package brings to $4 trillion the amount the US has spent on shoring up its economy since pandemic began a year ago

President Joe Biden speaking about the American Rescue Plan in the Rose Garden of the White House. Photograph: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

President Joe Biden speaking about the American Rescue Plan in the Rose Garden of the White House. Photograph: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

 

President Joe Biden and officials will take to the road next week to sell the American Rescue Plan to the US public as the president hailed this week’s agreement on a mammoth $1.9 trillion Covid rescue plan.

Speaking at an event in the White House Rose Garden on Friday to mark the signing of the package into law, Mr Biden said his plan “directly addresses the emergency in this country”.

“For the first time in a long time this bill puts working people in this nation first,” he said.

Pointing to the various measures in the package, including $1,400 direct payments to Americans and funding to help reopen schools and businesses, he said that he was delivering on his campaign promise to bring help to the American people.

He said the bill, which includes generous child tax credits, represented the “biggest investment in childcare since the second World War”.

Almost two dozen Democrats from the House and Senate attended the event at the White House to mark the passage of the legislation – a big win for the president just seven weeks after taking office.

Looking out to his Democratic colleagues who were seated at a distance with masks on the lawn, Mr Biden said: “Thanks for making this happen. You made this happen. I served 36 years in the Senate I know how hard it is to pass major consequential legislation.”

Mr Biden picked out many by name, including Senator Bernie Sanders, his one-time presidential rival and chair of the Senate Budget Committee, who helped shepherd the bill through the senate. “Bernie stepping up and making the case why this was so transformational made a big difference in how a lot of people voted.”

Opposition

Despite the Democratic show of strength at Friday’s event, the absence of any Republicans at the event was a striking reminder that the Covid plan was passed without a single Republican vote, an indication of the level of GOP opposition to the bill.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has slammed the legislation as “a multitrillion-dollar Trojan horse full of bad old liberal ideas”.

However, polls show that the new Covid package is popular among the public, including among Republican voters. A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted this week showed that 70 per cent of Americans support the plan.

Speaking at Friday’s White House event, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said that the successful passage of the legislation was a reminder of the importance of what was at stake in January’s two special elections in Georgia. Won by Democrats, the two elections ultimately decided political control of the Senate.

The American Rescue Plan now brings to more than $4 trillion the money the US government has spent on shoring up the US economy since the pandemic began a year ago, following two stimulus packages last year.

With the new administration keen to reap the political benefits of the $1.9 trillion boost to the US economy, Mr Biden and colleagues will hold events across the country in the coming weeks.

The president himself will visit Pennsylvania on Tuesday, while vice-president Kamala Harris will travel to Las Vegas on Monday, and New Mexico later in the week. First lady Jill Biden will hold events in New Hampshire on Wednesday.

Asia-Pacific region

Earlier in the day Mr Biden announced a new initiative with Japan, India and Australia to provide 1 billion doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines to the Asia-Pacific region.

The announcement was made at the first virtual meeting of the “Quad” – an informal grouping of the four nations.

Under the agreement the US and Japan will fund the manufacturing of the vaccines in India. Australia will then help distribute them.

The announcement is separate to ongoing discussions about the fate of millions of doses of Astra Zeneca vaccines that are being stored in Ohio and Maryland pending Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.