With Trump impeachment over, Biden shifts focus to coronavirus policies

Biden has made his covid relief bill a key plank of his pandemic response – JOSHUA ROBERTS /REUTERS

Joe Biden will pitch his coronavirus relief bill directly to voters this week as his allies declared that “2021 can finally start” with the spectacle of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial finally over.

The US president hopes to regain the national spotlight with his first major trips outside of Washington DC this week during which he will make a case for his $1.9 trillion stimulus bill directly to the public.

Mr Biden has made the massive spending bill, called the “American Rescue Plan”, a cornerstone of his government’s response to the pandemic but has met with Republican opposition over the huge cost to the public purse.

Recent polls suggest the majority of the public support the spending package, which would see unemployment benefits extended and direct payments made out to most Americans.

White House officials hopes that with Mr Trump’s impeachment trial concluded, they can regain the political momentum to move swiftly to get the spending package passed by Congress.

Mr Biden is also making his case for the major financial stimulus directly to voters with a televised town hall event in Milwaukee Tuesday night, his first official trip as president, and during a visit to a vaccine manufacturing plant in Michigan on Thursday.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, used a media blitz over the weekend to frame the trips as Mr Biden’s chance to “redouble his efforts in the days and weeks ahead”.

Ms Psaki acknowledged that the end of the media frenzy around Mr Trump’s second impeachment trial meant Mr Biden would enjoy “more of a spotlight” on his coronavirus proposals this week, adding it could “return to a focus on the president’s agenda of getting relief into the hands of the American people.”

Jennifer Palmieri, a former communications director in the Obama-Biden administration, went a step further, telling the New York Times that Mr Biden finally “takes center stage now in a way that the first few weeks didn’t allow”.

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She added that “2021 can finally start.”

But it appears Mr Trump is reluctant to allow himself to be sidelined – with the former Republican president reportedly planning to hold a news conference from his private Florida beach club in the coming days.

Mr Trump has already hinted that he intends to remain a prominent figure in US politics in a statement after he was acquitted of inciting the deadly January 6 Capitol riots at the end of his second impeachment trial.

“In the months ahead I have much to share with you,” he said.

Meanwhile Democrats in the House of Representatives have already begun combining the proposals together into a single bill with the aim of passing it by the end of the month.

The stimulus plan calls for an increase in the child tax credit, additional unemployment benefits of $400 a week to be extended through to September and $1,400 cheques to be paid directly to most Americans.

Around $500 billion in funding to states and cities is listed within the relief plan. The package also includes proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 (£10) per hour, but Mr Biden has conceded that measure may fail to get the necessary support from moderate Democrats to pass in the Senate.

Most Republicans in Congress oppose the spending package, with moderate GOP senators proposing a spending bill roughly a third of the size.


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