Biden pushing to refocus Congress on virus relief
WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden is embarking on his first official trip as president to refocus Congress on coronavirus relief and to cement public support for his $1.9 trillion aid package.
With his prime-time moment — a Tuesday evening CNN town hall in Milwaukee — the new president is 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.
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.”
Asked as he left the White House about McConnell’s comment, Biden said, “It may unify Republicans, but it will hurt America badly.”
Biden’s trip to Wisconsin, a political battleground state he narrowly won last November, comes as coronavirus infection rates and deaths are falling after the nation endured the two deadliest months so far of the pandemic. The White House is also reporting an increase in the administration of vaccines throughout the country after a slow start.
But Biden has stressed that the nation still has a long road ahead as thousands of Americans die each day in the worst U.S. public health crisis in a century. The virus has killed more than 485,000, and newly emerging variants are complicating the response effort.
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.
In choosing Wisconsin for his first trip, Biden picked one of the most politically divided states to test his pitch that he has the ability to bring the country together after one of the most difficult periods in recent history.