President Joe Biden signed a sweeping economic package into law Thursday, a day earlier than originally planned and just a few hours before addressing the nation to promote the massive relief effort.
The signing of Biden’s first legislative victory came exactly one year after the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. The bill, passed without any Republican support in Congress, adds another $1.9 trillion to the federal response to the coronavirus crisis, pushing total spending to roughly $5.5 trillion over the last 12 months.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the signing was done ahead of schedule in order “to move as fast as possible,” and the new law would be celebrated at the White House with congressional leaders on Friday.
Relief payments of up to $1,400 per person could start flowing within a few days, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, with direct deposits arriving as soon as this weekend and continuing for the “next several weeks.”
Selling the package: The White House is confident that the bill will continue to be popular. “You don’t actually need to go sell this bill,” White House adviser Anita Dunn told The Washington Post. “It’s one of the few bills that has become more popular as it moved through Congress, not less. We don’t need to convince people that Americans need help; we need to tell them how they can get that help.”
Still, Biden plans to spend the next few weeks promoting the relief package to the American people. As part of that effort, the White House unveiled a new website to celebrate the legislation and to help people learn about the benefits it provides.
The president will hit the road next week, traveling to Pennsylvania on Tuesday and then to Georgia on Friday, where he will be joined by Vice President Kamala Harris. The vice president will travel on her own earlier in the week, stopping in California, Colorado and Nevada as part of the public relations campaign. The White House also plans to have administration officials, mayors and governors appear on local TV all over the country to talk up the relief plan, Reuters reported.
The promotional effort is driven in part by memories of the Great Recession in 2009, when President Obama spent little time selling his roughly $800 billion stimulus program to the American people. Biden officials see that lack of public relations as a mistake, one that helped Republicans take back the House the following year.
“We didn’t do enough to explain to the American people what the benefits were” back in 2009, Psaki said Wednesday.
A different era? Presidential historian Thomas Alan Schwartz told Reuters that the bill’s popularity could help Democrats avoid the fate of losing seats in Congress in the mid-terms following a presidential victory. “I think it could lead to a very positive aura to the presidency and to this sense that it’s ‘morning again in America,’” he said.
Republicans signaled their negative communications strategy on the legislation this week, downplaying its effectiveness while portraying as a leftist threat. “Democrats inherited a turning tide,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday. “The vaccine trends and economic trends were in place before this bill was ever voted on, before this president was sworn in. But they’re determined to push to the front of the parade with this effort to push America to the left.”