By Steve Holland
President Joe Biden visited Pennsylvania on Tuesday to promote his $1.9 trillion stimulus package as part of an all-out push by his team to sell a plan aimed at boosting the U.S. economy out of its pandemic doldrums.
Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden and others are visiting various states and appearing on television as part of what the White House is calling the “Help is Here” tour.
Biden is expected to visit a small business in Delaware County, a suburb of Philadelphia. The Democratic president defeated Republican former President Donald Trump in the election battleground state of Pennsylvania in the Nov. 3 election. Biden and Harris on Friday will visit Georgia, another state where Biden eked out a win over Trump.
The law, known as the American Rescue Plan, passed the Democratic-led U.S. Congress despite unified Republican opposition. Republicans supported pandemic-related relief bills under Trump but rejected Biden’s plan as too expensive and not sufficiently focused on the public health crisis.
White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein, speaking on CNN, defended the size of the package, saying it will power the economy out of the “start again, stop again” phase it has been in since COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns began a year ago.
The package, one of the largest economic stimulus measures in U.S. history, provides $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, an expansion of the child tax credit and increased funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The measure was Biden’s first legislative priority upon taking office in January. Partisan battle lines are already being drawn over what could come next – a massive infrastructure plan that could involve the first major tax increase since 1993. Biden has promised he will not raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year.
The White House has said it does not believe former President Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden served as vice president, did enough to promote its more than $800 billion 2009 economic rescue program. Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives to Republicans the next year.
Biden on Monday said his administration would reach two important goals over the next 10 days: 100 million coronavirus shots in people’s arms and 100 million checks in people’s pockets or bank accounts.