President Biden took a victory lap over his American Rescue Plan (ARP) on Monday afternoon, lauding both the number of COVID-19 vaccinations administered and the stimulus checks being distributed in the coming days while criticizing his predecessor.
“Shots in arms and money in pockets, that’s important,” Biden said at the White House. “The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do, make a difference in people’s everyday lives, and we’re just getting started.”
The president signed the legislation on Thursday, beginning the process of distributing money to Americans via stimulus checks, expanded unemployment insurance and larger child tax credits. The plan also provides funding for vaccine distribution, schools, and state and local governments. The IRS has not yet said how many personal payments have already been issued.
Biden noted that his administration was bringing in Gene Sperling to serve as a coordinator for the ARP distribution. The hiring of Sperling, who worked on the economic teams for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, was reported by Politico Sunday evening and announced earlier Monday at the White House press briefing. Biden said fastidious oversight was necessary to make sure the money was distributed without waste or fraud, before pivoting to knock former President Donald Trump.
“When the Congress last year passed the CARES Act, Congress created a committee of inspectors general to make sure every penny of that money was spent as it was directed,” Biden said, referring to an earlier relief package signed into law by Trump. “But one of the first things the previous administration did was fire the head of the inspector generals’ committee.
“So when Congress passed what was intended to be a small-business relief program, it instead became a free-for-all for well-connected companies, and mainstream businesses from hardware stores to beauty salons that needed the help most were left behind — 400,000 are now gone. We will not let that happen this time.”
Last April, Trump fired Glenn Fine, who was set to lead the independent panel overseeing stimulus distribution. It was part of a wider purge of inspectors general, leading to a June letter from government watchdogs alleging that the administration was blocking their ability to perform oversight.
After his statement, Biden was asked by a reporter if Trump could help promote the vaccine among skeptics. Polling has shown that nearly half of Republican men say they wouldn’t get the vaccine.
“I discussed it with my team,” Biden replied, “and they said the thing that would have more impact than anything Trump would say to the [Make America Great Again] folks is what the local doctor, local preacher, local people in the community say. So I urge all local docs and ministers and priests to talk about why it’s important to get that vaccine. And even after that, until everyone is in fact vaccinated, to wear this mask.”
Trump got the shot in January, although he did not do so in front of cameras as other political leaders, including former Vice President Mike Pence, have done. Trump was also notably absent from a recent pro-vaccine advertisement that included every other living former president.
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