President Biden and Vice President Harris spoke at the White House Rose Garden Friday afternoon in a ceremony celebrating the passage of the administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package earlier this week.
The joint event with congressional Democratic leaders marks the start of a concerted push by the White House to promote the American Rescue Plan around the country.
“It’s critical to demonstrate that government can function; can function and deliver prosperity, security and opportunity for the people of this country,” Biden said during his remarks.
Biden signed the bill Thursday, securing the first major legislative accomplishment of his term. The legislation includes direct payments, which Biden said would begin to go out as soon as this weekend, extended unemployment benefits and an expanded child tax credit. There’s also billions of dollars set aside for schools, businesses and the expansion of the country’s vaccine rollout. (Read more about the details here.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attended, alongside a number of Democratic House and Senate committee chairs. Both Pelosi and Schumer praised committee leaders and members of their caucuses for getting the legislation passed, with Pelosi referring to House committee chairs as “dazzling.”
“Our unity on behalf of all the American people is what made this such a triumph,” Pelosi said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was also present, though he was one of the strongest backers of a provision in an earlier version of the legislation that would have increased the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. The proposed wage increase was ruled out by the Senate parliamentarian last month.
Biden praised Sanders during his remarks, thanking him for “making the case as to why this was so transformational” and said the bill “changes the paradigm” on who benefits from major government legislation.
“For the first time in a long time, this bill puts working people in this nation first,” Biden said.
Though Biden said Thursday that an “overwhelming percentage of the American people” support the package, no Republicans voted for the bill in the House or the Senate.
Friday’s ceremony kicked off a sort of victory lap during which Biden, Harris and their spouses will travel the country next week promoting the package.
The “Help is Here” tour will start on Monday, when Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff head to Las Vegas, while first lady Jill Biden visits Burlington, N.J. Other stops will include the Philadelphia suburbs, Atlanta and Denver.
“This law is not the end of our efforts, though,” Biden said. “I view it as only the beginning.”
According to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey, 62% of Americans approve of how Biden is handling the pandemic so far.