WASHINGTON— President Joe Biden flew to Milwaukee on Tuesday to push for passage of his American Rescue Plan.
The trip comes just a few days after the Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in a second impeachment trial, a spectacle that divided national attention away from the new administration’s efforts.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki waved off any suggestion that impeachment had diverted Biden’s focus on passing his $1.9 trillion coronavirus package. “The president is not shifting gears, he has been focused every single day — even as others have not, which is understandable — on engaging with partners, stakeholders, people who agree with him, people who don’t agree with him on getting this package through,” she said.
A poll from CBS News and YouGov found 83 percent of Americans support the measure, including a sizeable majority of Republicans. Psaki pointed to positive poll numbers as reason to believe Biden could muster bipartisan support.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Wall Street Journal that he believed Biden’s package — with it high price tag and provision to set a national $15 minimum wage — “will help unify our party. I don’t think many Republicans are going to be for very many of the things that are coming out of this administration.”
Biden said Republican opposition to his plan “may unify Republicans, but it will hurt America badly.”
“If unity helps you achieve results, great,” Democratic pollster Paul Maslin said. But if bipartisanship doesn’t help get more vaccines out, or provide economic relief to those in need, that’s how Biden will be judged.
“Results are what’s much more important here and it doesn’t matter where it comes from,” said Maslin.
Biden may also have to woo Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, who have voiced opposition to the $15 minimum wage. In early February, the Senate passed a proposal to delay the minimum wage increase during the pandemic by a voice vote.
Asked if Biden would be willing to delay the minimum wage hike in order to pass the measure, Psaki said Biden included the minimum wage hike in the COVID package for a reason, but she not slam the door on the notion.
It was hard not to sense a change in how the Biden White House is operating — with the president leaving the Washington metro area to pitch his agenda in a battleground state he won narrowly in 2020.
Other pressing issues
Thursday, Biden travels again, this time to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he will visit a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing site.
On Sunday, the three-year anniversary of Parkland high-school shooting that left 14 students and three educators dead, Biden issued a statement in which he called on Congress “to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets. We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change.”
On Monday, the White House opened a special Affordable Care Act enrollment period through May 15.
“President Biden believes health care is a right and will do everything in his power to uphold his commitment to ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care,” a White House statement reads. “After four years of attacks on Americans’ health care and amid the pandemic, this special enrollment period will help Americans secure some peace of mind as we work to beat the pandemic and strengthen and build on the Affordable Care Act.”