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Biden and Harris hit the road after joint session address to sell agenda

Administration will push legislative priorities beyond the halls of Congress

Members of Congress greet President Joe Biden on Wednesday as he enters the House chamber to deliver his joint session address on Wednesday night.
Members of Congress greet President Joe Biden on Wednesday as he enters the House chamber to deliver his joint session address on Wednesday night. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Fresh off his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, President Joe Biden is hitting the road to sell sweeping plans for infrastructure investment, child care, and health and education programs — and the tax hikes to pay for them.

On his 100th day in office, Biden will be taking his message beyond the familiar confines of the Capitol, in an effort to, as he put it Wednesday night, “prove democracy still works. That our government still works — and can deliver for the people.”

“In our first 100 days together, we have acted to restore the people’s faith in our democracy to deliver,” the president told the assembled lawmakers and other dignitaries in the House chamber, far fewer in number because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Biden administration’s road show will feature events aimed at selling both a $2 trillion-plus infrastructure package that would invest in everything from roads, rails and bridges to broadband, electric vehicle technology and child care and the $1.8 trillion family assistance plan formally unveiled during Wednesday’s address.

Called the “Getting America Back on Track Tour” by the White House, it will include at least one visit to a train station, a familiar setting for Biden, whose Amtrak commutes from Delaware to D.C. during his days as a senator have long connected him to rail travel. And the president and vice president are expected to tout their accomplishments, providing rhetorical cover for advocating their expansive agenda.

“During the stops they’ll hear from the American people about their experiences on the front lines of fighting the virus and addressing the resulting economic fallout,” a White House official, speaking on background about the plan, said in an email. “They’ll talk about the administration’s success in getting over 200 million shots in arms in 100 days, and how that has helped us change the shape of the pandemic. They’ll also discuss the vital importance of the [American] Rescue Plan in spurring on our economic recovery, including by getting $1,400 checks out to 85% of households — with 160 million being distributed in total — cutting taxes for families with children, and supporting small businesses.”

The presidential travel will begin in Georgia, the state that really made it possible for the president to even entertain such a sweeping agenda, with its corresponding revenue raisers targeting corporations and the wealthiest individual taxpayers. When Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won both of the state’s Senate seats in January runoffs, it handed control of the 50-50 Senate to the Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker.

Much of the travel is designed not only to highlight what the administration has done so far but also to prod Congress to advance the next pieces of the agenda.

Biden’s swing through Georgia includes a drive-in car rally in Duluth, a reprise of a style of event that became a fixture of the president’s 2020 campaign once the COVID-19 pandemic made more traditional rallies dangerous. The White House has also announced he will visit with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, in their hometown of Plains, Ga.

“And, they’ll use these events to call on Congress to act on the Jobs Plan and Families Plan by highlighting how those proposals would tangibly improve the lives of individuals and community around the country, including by making investments in vital infrastructure like roads, ports, broadband, and caring, and by making our tax code fairer for families and businesses,” the White House official said.

That will be all the more obvious when the president is on the road Friday, traveling to Philadelphia for an event to promote infrastructure plans that can only be described as being completely on brand for the occupant of the Oval Office. Biden will attend a 50th anniversary celebration for Amtrak at the City of Brotherly Love’s 30th Street Station.

Both the president and first lady are scheduled to travel to Yorktown, Va., on Monday as the tour continues. The vice president, meanwhile, kicks off her travel on Thursday in Baltimore before heading to Cincinnati on Friday.

While the White House has not provided many specifics about the vice president’s plan for Friday, it would seem unusual to travel to the Cincinnati area as part of an infrastructure push without paying a visit to the beleaguered Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstate 71 and I-75 over the Ohio River to Kentucky.

The region’s international airport is located on the Kentucky side of the river, and the bridge is a familiar symbol for the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Former President Barack Obama did an event there in 2011.

Douglas Emhoff, the second gentleman, has an itinerary that includes a Friday trip to Raleigh, N.C., alongside Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Other Cabinet officials beyond Buttigieg were expected to be traveling in the coming weeks as well.

Biden is giving himself, and his team, a two-week head start to sell his legislative agenda to the public before he meets with bipartisan congressional leadership to discuss the agenda.

The president plans to hold a bipartisan meeting with House and Senate leadership on May 12: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“He is eager to talk in person about how we can partner on the goals of restoring trust in government and ensuring that government delivers for the American people,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in confirming the meeting timeline ahead of Wednesday’s address.

To date, Republicans have shown no willingness to back spending plans anywhere close to the size of Biden’s proposals. Likewise, tax increases other than additional “user fees” to finance transportation improvements have so far been off the table for the GOP. Senate Republicans offered up a $568 billion alternative, focused on what they have called “traditional” infrastructure projects.

Congressional Democrats appear eager to advance the president’s agenda, even without the Republicans.

Schumer made clear Wednesday that a budget resolution would advance — a critical first step to using the reconciliation process, which changes tax and spending levels and results in a measure that can pass the Senate with a simple majority.

“The budget resolution has to move forward, and we’re going to have to do many things at once,” he said at a news conference.

While keeping his legislative options open — which would require passing through the chamber’s traditional procedural path, including a potential filibuster — Schumer hinted that he was moving toward a reconciliation route. “We will look for bipartisanship wherever we can,” he said. “But the No. 1 goal is a big, bold plan along the lines of what President Biden has proposed.”

David Lerman contributed to this report.

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