President Biden on Friday led a Rose Garden celebration of his just-signed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill — but it included no Republicans and he once again took no questions from reporters.
Biden kicked off his PR push to promote the bill that passed with only Democratic votes after signing it Thursday, and he returned to many of the themes of his Thursday night primetime address.
“This is not over, conditions can change. We’re not finished yet… The scientists have warned us about new variants of this virus, and the devil is in the details of implementing this legislation,” Biden said.
The president was joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a socially distanced group of other congressional Democrats.
Biden insisted that Republican voters support his first major legislative achievement as president, even as it won no Republican votes as Democrats rammed it through Congress under budget reconciliation rules.
“What you shepherded through the Congress not only meets the moment. It does even more. It’s historical and they call it transformational. And it really is,” Biden said.
“We are showing it is possible to get big important things done.”
The bill gives $1,400 stimulus checks to Americans who earn less than $75,000 per year and extends a $300 weekly unemployment supplement through Sept. 6.
“For a typical family of four, middle class family, husband and wife working making $110,000 — here that means a $5,600 check they’re gonna get. 85 percent of the households in America will be getting this money,” Biden said.
The package contains $350 billion in state and local aid and $75 billion for COVID-19 vaccination, testing and other pandemic medical supplies.
Some Republicans denounced the bill as “socialism” but Biden returned fire with a swipe at Republican tax policies in his remarks.
“It changes the paradigm. For the first time in a long time, this bill puts working people in this nation first. It’s not hyperbole. It’s a fact,” Biden said.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to — since the Johnson administration and maybe even before that — to begin to change the paradigm. We’ve seen time and time again that trickle down does not work.”
Biden said “it’s time that we build an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out.”
But Biden, who has not held a press conference since taking office more than 50 days ago, once again ignored a reporter’s shouted questions before heading back into the White House. Later, as he departed for Delaware, Biden ignored another question about the fate of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The stimulus bill grants $1,400 stimulus checks to adults who earn up to $75,000 per year, with smaller amounts for earners under $80,000. An extra $1,400 check is awarded for each dependent child, but in a change from past stimulus checks, the income limits apply to checks for kids too.
Parents also gain a new annual tax credit of $3,000-$3,600 per child in the bill, up from $2,000 per child currently.
The bill establishes 15 weeks of paid leave for federal workers, including US Postal Service employees, for COVID-19 related reasons, including care of kids who don’t have school or daycare.
It creates a new $25 billion grant program specifically for bars and restaurants that will compensate for lost revenue, and allows for government reimbursement of health insurance premiums for people who remain on employer policies after losing their jobs.
It also offers more than $120 billion for K-12 schools, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates that more than 90 percent won’t be spent in 2021 because funds approved for schools last year haven’t been spent.
Republicans said the bill is wasteful and could spur inflation and slammed Biden’s primetime address for claiming credit for expanding COVID-19 vaccinations while not mentioning that former President Donald Trump’s administration poured billions into successful vaccine research and development.
Biden said in the Rose Garden that he was concerned about people not trusting the government, implicitly knocking at his predecessor.
“Look, one of the things that I’ve been most worried about — and I think you all have too, especially those of us who’ve been around for 100 years like me — is you’ve watched people lose confidence in government, just lose confidence in that we tell the truth,” Biden said.