Biden to put focus on coronavirus relief at Wisconsin town hall event
President Biden will promote his coronavirus relief plan Tuesday evening at a CNN town hall event in Wisconsin, marking his first official domestic trip since taking office.
Two days later, Biden is slated to travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., to visit Pfizer’s manufacturing site and speak with workers producing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Biden has been holding meetings with members of Congress and other elected officials from both parties on his COVID-19 relief package in his first weeks as president. Tuesday’s televised event will present an opportunity for Biden to talk to members of the public concerned about the pandemic as he attempts to build further support for his $1.9 trillion proposal.
“His objective is really to make sure he is engaging directly with the people who are impacted by the pandemic, who are impacted by the economic downturn, who are worried about whether they are going to get a shot, who don’t know where to get information, who are worried about whether they are going to be able to put food on the table,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing Tuesday afternoon. “That’s the focus of this trip.”
Psaki also said Biden has been meeting behind the scenes with advisers throughout the day on plans to address the pandemic. The White House on Tuesday announced plans to increase the number of weekly COVID-19 vaccine doses given to states from 11 million to 13.6 million.
Biden is looking to put a focus on his pandemic plan after the impeachment trial of former President Trump consumed Washington over the previous week. The trial ended in Trump’s second acquittal by the Senate, but it exposed bitter divides within the Republican Party.
Biden and White House officials have largely sought to avoid the impeachment debate, focusing instead on the administration’s plans to tackle the virus. Psaki sidestepped questions Tuesday on whether Trump should face legal action over his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Now that the trial is over, coronavirus relief will take center stage on Capitol Hill. House committees advanced components of the package last week, and the House Budget Committee is expected to finish a final bill this week.
The full legislative package could pass as soon as next week.
Biden has said he was hoping for GOP support, but at this stage, no congressional Republicans have backed his proposal, leaving Democrats to seek passage through the budget reconciliation process.
Still, the White House has left open the possibility that Republicans could eventually support the bill even with the reconciliation process, with top aides highlighting that public opinion polls show strong support for the package. Some Republican governors and mayors have also expressed support for the legislation, which includes $350 billion in funding for state, local and tribal governments.
“Republicans in Congress will have to make the choice of whether they will support the final package. It’s still working its way through Congress, but the vast majority of the public supports it,” Psaki said Tuesday.
A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month found that 68 percent of Americans support the $1.9 trillion bill proposed by Biden, which also includes funding for $1,400 direct payments for many Americans, vaccination efforts and school reopenings.
The CNN town hall will take place at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and air at 9 p.m. ET.