Swing State town hall marks new phase in selling stimulus package


Still, the timeline in many ways remains unclear, with Biden covering some commitments and openly declaring uncertainty about some goals. There may be a time lag between when vaccine doses are dispensed and when they are administered; restrictions may be in place long after they become available; and the precise meaning of schools being “open” has at times been unclear.

And while he was expressing some optimism, Biden cautioned, “I don’t want to promise too much here.”

His mayoral appearance, in a swing state he won by around 20,000 votes, came as the White House pushes for a $ 1.9 trillion proposal to help fund the reopening of schools , stem cuts to state and local governments, and inject more money into immunization programs.

This came nearly four weeks after Biden was sworn in and three days after the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting the insurgency on Capitol Hill on Jan.6. It also came at a critical time for Biden’s debut. legislative push, which will test its ability to navigate today’s Congress and its promise to usher in an era of unity and two-party politics.

Biden often tried to dodge questions about Trump, at one point calling him “the old guy.” “I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump,” he told another. “I don’t want to talk about him anymore.

Much of town hall has focused on fears of the coronavirus and the challenges it presents to a nation on edge after a year of economic struggles and a deadly pandemic that has wreaked havoc on millions of lives.

Biden has alternated between bragging about his policy proposals – defending his call to gradually increase the federal minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 15 an hour – and responding to the raw emotions expressed by many onlookers.

A mother with her 8-year-old daughter standing next to her said her children often ask if they will get the coronavirus, if they will die from covid-19 and when they will be vaccinated against the virus that causes the disease.

Biden addressed the girl directly.

“I know it’s a little worrying,” he said. “You don’t go to school. You can’t see your friends. And so what a lot of kids – and I mean, and grown-ups too, older people – their whole life has kind of changed. “

“When things change, people get really worried and scared,” he added. “But don’t be afraid, honey. Do not be afraid. You are fine. And we’ll make sure mom is okay too.

Biden said he is trying to increase the number of sites offering vaccinations and has made efforts to increase the supply and put pressure on additional workers to administer the vaccines.

The mayoral format put Biden, whose political career has been built on chatty behavior and personal ties to voters, in direct contact with Americans for the first time as president.

“God bless you, no purgatory for you,” Biden told a man who said he had four school-aged children. “God loves you,” he said to a man who teaches English in high school.

Biden reaffirmed his goal of creating a “reasonable path to citizenship” for many undocumented immigrants, as well as expanding the country’s refugee program. He also said white supremacists were “demented” and posed a grave danger that his Justice Department would tackle.

“The nation is not divided. You go out, take a look and talk to people, you have bangs at both ends. But it’s not as divided as we claim it is, ”Biden said. “And we have to bring it together.”

Since becoming president, Biden has taken weekend trips to his home in Wilmington, Del., And to the presidential retreat from Camp David in Maryland. But his visit to Milwaukee is his most important trip as president yet, and it comes amid a pandemic that makes presidential travel riskier than usual.

With the impeachment trial in the rearview mirror, Biden’s outing to a snowy Midwestern town marks a more concerted attempt to woo the public and coax moderate Republicans who have been open to working with him but skeptical of the size of the relief package.

It also marks the start of a more active travel program. Biden is due to travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., On Thursday to visit a Pfizer plant that makes the company’s coronavirus vaccine. On Friday, the president plans to address remotely the Munich Security Conference, a prestigious annual gathering of world leaders to discuss issues of war and peace.

But even as Biden begins to roll out more traditional aspects of the presidency, he does so in a way that makes it clear that normalcy has not returned.

While on his way to Wisconsin, Biden visited a theater where members of the public maintained social distancing – with no plans for informal stops at cafes or ice cream parlors any president, but especially Biden, did. normally could do.

When he travels to Michigan, Biden will visit a factory producing a vaccine to fight the pandemic. And when Biden addresses the Munich Forum on Friday – an event he has attended often in years past – it will be done virtually.

And it’s still unclear when, or how, Biden will deliver his first joint speech to Congress, a presidential tradition similar to the State of the Union speech he originally planned to undertake in February, but which could. not to happen until next month.

When the speech takes place, there will almost certainly be far fewer lawmakers in the chamber, if Biden can visit the Capitol.

Ahead of Biden’s trip on Tuesday, the administration announced that the federal government would increase the distribution of coronavirus vaccine doses from 11 million to 13.5 million per week. The government is also expanding a previously announced program to deliver vaccines to local pharmacies, with 2 million doses expected this week. The initiative is expected to expand to 40,000 pharmacies nationwide.

Biden also signed an executive order that extends a moratorium on foreclosures until June 30 that prevents banks and other mortgage lenders from foreclosing on homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages.

Biden’s advisers believe his ability to bring the coronavirus under control will be the most important factor in determining the course of his presidency. In the days leading up to the inauguration, he announced a $ 1.9 trillion relief proposal that included $ 1,400 in stimulus payments to individuals, additional funding for schools, and additional help with coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution.

The House is setting the stage for a vote on the bill next week, after which it will be taken up by the Senate. Democrats are broadly united behind the legislation and they are proceeding with a budget reconciliation process that would allow them to pass the bill by a simple majority in the Senate, instead of the 60 votes usually required.

Biden tried to persuade Senate Republicans to back the package, but said he was ready to move forward without them. In recent weeks, White House officials have argued that the plan is bipartisan because it enjoys broad public support, even though Republican lawmakers don’t vote for it in the end.

About 68% of those polled supported Biden’s plan in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. The legislation had the support of 97% of Democrats, 68% of Independents and 47% of Republicans.

Although for most of the day there was little noticeable activity in Milwaukee in anticipation of Biden’s visit, with most residents focusing on the latest snowstorm instead, the downtown landmarks were flooded with red, white and blue lights.

The site of the town hall was the Pabst Theater, a historic Victorian Baroque building filled with Greek statues and a two-ton chandelier. But out of respect for distancing guidelines, a small fraction of the 1,339-seat theater was to be occupied. The last live headliner in the theater was apparently comedian Dave Chappelle, who performed in March before the shutdown caused by the virus.

Towards the end of the event, Biden marveled at the experience of living in the White House, telling the meaning of the story while yearning for some of the wooded – and pool – privacy of the the vice-president’s residence he occupied, compared to what he called “a golden cage”.

“I wake up in the morning and look at Jill and I say, ‘Where the hell are we? “Biden joked.

He said he was less intimidated than he once was by the presidency, having seen seven CEOs up close, adding that he had been in contact with most of his living predecessors.

“All of them – with one exception – picked up the phone and called me,” Biden said.

He stopped and laughed with the audience, who knew which President Biden hadn’t spoken to and are trying not to talk about it.

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