Biden prioritizes rescuing economy, fighting pandemic after impeachment
President Joe Biden. EFE/EPA/KEVIN DIETSCH / File
Washington, Feb 15 (efe-epa).- With the impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump now over, President Joe Biden is focusing on pushing forward with his own agenda, giving priority to fighting the coronavirus pandemic and the economic mayhem it has wrought, moving to muster support for approving a new comprehensive stimulus package valued at $1.9 trillion.
After months of electoral and post-electoral drama during which Trump has been omnipresent in the media, Biden, who on Monday for the President's Day holiday is staying at Camp David, made clear that it is now time to talk about the pandemic, the economy and the measures his government is implementing on both fronts.
Along those lines, the president announced in a communique the activation of the HealthCare.gov Web page, where anyone who does not have health insurance and wants to acquire it via the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare) can do so, although Trump had tried to end the ACA during his own tenure in office.
By way of defending his rescue plan, Biden said: "Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. And I will do everything in my power to ensure that all Americans have access to the quality, affordable healthcare they deserve."
The president said that his American Rescue Plan, which is working its way through Congress, "will ramp up testing, tracing, and our national vaccination program to get shots into as many arms as possible as quickly as we can. (It) will also take big steps to lower health costs and expand access to care for all Americans, including those who have lost their jobs."
The stimulus plan in early February made a great leap forward in Congress, where the two chambers gave the green light to the draft bill, although without the bipartisan support the president had desired, and it could be approved within the coming weeks.
The proposal includes the distribution of $1,400 checks to taxpayers, a weekly unemployment subsidy of $400 and $350 billion to help state and municipal governments deal with the pandemic's effects.
In addition, Biden is pushing for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour and more funds for childcare, school funding and vaccine distribution.
Last March, Congress approved a $2.3 trillion rescue plan - the largest in US history - and in December it OK'd another $900 billion in stimulus funds, including more checks for taxpayers, protection against tenant evictions and funding to extend unemployment aid.
Since his inauguration on Jan. 20, Biden has made great efforts to place a different tone than Trump did on the fight against the pandemic, which has hit the US harder than any country in the world, infecting more than 27.6 million people and killing more than 485,000.
In contrast to Trump, who delayed for months in wearing a facemask in public, Biden issued a federal facemask mandate obligating anyone on federal property to wear one, among other measures.
The new president is not only adopting a different focus to deal with the pandemic but also has reversed many of the policies of his predecessor, issuing dozens of executive orders to roll back Trump's measures in different areas such as immigration, the climate crisis, healthcare and foreign policy.
All this has come while Congress organized itself to hold the impeachment trial for Trump, with Democrats accusing him of "inciting to insurrection" for fomenting the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by his supporters, an unprecedented attack that resulted in five deaths, more than 130 police officers injured and extensive damage to the Capitol complex.
After weeks of preparations and trial proceedings that lasted five days, the ex-president was acquitted last Saturday in a Senate vote.
Once the impeachment trial was over and with Trump silenced, for the moment at least, due to his being banned from the main social networks, Biden on Monday will return from Camp David to the White House to begin a week during which he will make his first longer trips within the US as president.
On Tuesday, he will fly to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to participate in an event organized by CNN to respond to questions from the public with the pandemic and the economic crisis as a backdrop.
On Thursday, he will travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he is scheduled to tour one of Pfizer's anti-Covid vaccine manufacturing plants.
And on Friday, he will take part in his first international meetings - a G7 meeting and the Munich Security Conference - which, due to the pandemic, will be held telematically.
According to the agenda provided by the White House, Biden will attend the virtual G7 meeting to discuss plans to defeat the pandemic and rebuild the global economy, and after that, he is scheduled to make statements about the importance of Washington's trans-Atlantic ties at a virtual event sponsored by the Munich Security Conference.