(Headline USA) For weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to negotiate over coronavirus relief in order to inflict damage on then-President Donald Trump’s political prospects.
Now the tables are turned.
Scrutiny has fallen on new President Joe Biden’s campaign promise—unethical though it may have been—to provide a new round of $2,000 stimulus payments.
That number now has been revised downward to $1,400. Nonetheless, Biden will find himself out of options if the deeply divided Senate decides not to play ball, only a week after Trump’s impeachment acquittal saw Biden refusing to get involved.
Hoping to leave impeachment in the rearview mirror, Biden embarked late Tuesday on his first official trip as president to refocus Congress on coronavirus relief and cement public support for his $1.9 trillion aid package.
With his prime-time moment—a prime-time CNN town hall in Milwaukee—the new president was attempting to build pressure on Republican lawmakers to get behind the massive relief package that White House officials say already has broad public support.
The stepped-up public push comes with the House expected to vote next week.
“The vast majority of the American people like what they see in this package,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said as she previewed Biden’s sales effort.
She added that the support in opinion polls “should be noted by members of Congress as they consider whether they’re going to vote for it or not.”
With a year now having passed since the China-borne pandemic reached US shores, Biden has stressed that the nation still has a long road ahead.
Thousands of Americans continue to die each day as the death toll in America closes in on the half-a-million mark, and newly emerging variants are complicating the response effort.
The Left long dismissed the notion of “herd immunity” during the Trump era, saying it was uncertain it could be achieved and that the only solution was to flatten the curve with economy-wrecking lockdowns.
Now, however, the Biden administration is trying to get enough Americans vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and allow life to return to a semblance of normalcy.
His team also argues that the federal government must keep open the spigot of government relief to help people who are suffering economically and to get the country back to pre-pandemic employment levels—a central concern of his predecessor’s in resisting the Left’s clarion call for widespread lockdowns.
While Biden’s rhetoric has begun, in many ways, to echo Trump’s own response, both have faced the same resistance from fiscally conservative GOP lawmakers.
Many continue to bristle at the price tag of a package that calls for sending $1,400 checks to most Americans as well as assistance for businesses, schools and homeowners and renters.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Monday told The Wall Street Journal that going too big could hurt Biden politically in the long run.
“That will help unify our party,” McConnell said. “I don’t think many Republicans are going to be for very many of the things that are coming out of this administration.”
McConnell likewise squared off with Trump during negotiations last fall after Trump demanded $2,000 checks and called the $600 stipends a disgrace.
Asked as he left the White House about McConnell’s comment, Biden said, “It may unify Republicans, but it will hurt America badly.”
Biden has said that going too small with the coronavirus package would be far riskier than going too big.
Psaki said, “I’m not sure what numbers Senator McConnell is looking at, but the American people have been clear what they’re looking for.”
For Tuesday night’s town hall, Biden was to take questions from a small audience of Democrats, Republicans and independents invited for a small, socially distant gathering at Milwaukee’s historic Pabst Theater.
Biden has mostly stayed close to the White House since taking office nearly a month ago, leaving the D.C. area only for weekend trips to his Delaware home and the Camp David presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland.
In addition to his visit to Milwaukee, Biden is to travel to Michigan on Thursday to visit a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility.
Ahead of the trip, the White House announced Biden was extending the federal foreclosure moratorium and mortgage forbearance through the end of June to help homeowners who are behind on payments due to the pandemic. The president on his first day in office extended the moratorium on foreclosures, first issued by Trump, until the end of March.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press