Biden leads Covid-19 relief sales pitch with an eye toward next steps

President Joe Biden launches a sales effort Tuesday that he says is critical to convincing Americans that government can make their lives better.

The “Help is Here” road show, which spans the country from coast to coast and includes travel by the first lady, vice president, second gentleman and Cabinet members, is partly designed to claim political credit for the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that no Republicans voted for but which remains overwhelmingly popular among Americans.
But Biden and his top aides say the tour’s more important purpose is to muster support for the idea that government can solve big problems — capital the President will need as he moves to the next big ticket items on his agenda, which this time will likely come with tax hikes.
    At a small business outside Philadelphia, Biden will trumpet the economic assistance offered by his administration to help shore up pandemic-addled sectors. The $ 1.9 trillion bill also sends billions to state and local governments, expands the child tax credit and delivers direct payments up to $ 1,400 to individuals.
      But he’ll also make the case more broadly that big government, when functioning properly, is a good thing.
        “We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them,” Biden said Monday as he explained how the White House planned to roll out the massive new law.
        “That’s our job,” he said. “That’s our responsibility.”
          Biden said last month he did not believe the stimulus passed in 2009 under President Barack Obama was properly sold to the American people; he claimed he told Obama as much but was rebuffed.
          The circumstances now are different from more than a decade ago. Obama entered office at the very start of the economic meltdown while Biden entered office nearly a year into the pandemic; while it was difficult to see a way out of the crisis in March 2009, there is now light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel thanks to a massive vaccination effort.
          After years of avoiding outward embrace for big government policies, Biden is banking on parallel health and economic crises — aggravated by government mismanagement under the previous administration — to make Americans more welcoming of his bid to expand the social safety net.
          Speaking at a school for baristas in Las Vegas on Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris said the goal of the administration travel efforts was to ensure Americans knew what they were getting under the law.
          “We want to avoid a situation where people are unaware of what they’re entitled to,” Harris said. “It’s not selling it; it literally is letting people know their rights. Think of it more as a public education campaign.”
          Harris will continue her efforts in Denver on Tuesday at a vaccination clinic and a small empanada business. First lady Jill Biden spoke with students at a school in New Jersey on Monday and will visit New Hampshire later in the week.
          Many of the states that administration officials are visiting this week are critical electoral battlegrounds and the law’s popularity among the American people is helping Biden and his surrogates promote the plan to Americans eager for relief.
          A smooth rollout of the new law will be essential for maintaining its majority support among Americans. There were positive signs on that front this weekend as direct stimulus payments began hitting Americans’ bank accounts. But officials say there are still potential hiccups ahead, including administering the expanded child tax credit through the IRS and getting billions of dollars to state and local governments efficiently and without waste.
          Biden on Monday named Gene Sperling, a top economic official in previous Democratic administrations, to oversee the implementation efforts.
          White House officials acknowledge the law’s implementation will go a long way in convincing Americans’ that further spending — and potential tax increases — are needed to pull the country from crisis.
          What that next step will be remains an open question. White House advisers have discussed with Biden their options on next legislative moves but haven’t yet come to a conclusion, according to officials.
            House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her members last week to begin working with Republicans on infrastructure proposals, a good indication that is in Biden’s sights.
            Yet a growing humanitarian problem at the southern border has also lent urgency to immigration reform, another of Biden’s top priorities.

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