Thursday Reads

Santiago Rusiñol

By Santiago Rusiñol

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was a historic day.

But the biggest accomplishment of the day was the House passage of Biden’s $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan Act. Also huge: the Senate confirmed Merrick Garland as U.S. Attorney General. They also confirmed Marcia Fudge as the first Black woman Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in more than 40 years, and Michael Regan, a Black man, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The New York Times: Congress Clears $1.9 Trillion Aid Bill, Sending It to Biden.

Congress gave final approval on Wednesday to President Biden’s sweeping, nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus package, as Democrats acted over unified Republican opposition to push through an emergency pandemic aid plan that carries out a vast expansion of the country’s social safety net.

By a vote of 220 to 211, the House sent the measure to Mr. Biden for his signature, cementing one of the largest injections of federal aid since the Great Depression. It would provide another round of direct payments for Americans, an extension of federal jobless benefits and billions of dollars to distribute coronavirus vaccines and provide relief for schools, states, tribal governments and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

“This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation — the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going — a fighting chance,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. He said he looked forward to signing what he called a “historic piece of legislation” on Friday at the White House.

The vote capped off a swift push by Mr. Biden and Democrats, newly in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, to address the toll of the coronavirus pandemic and begin putting in place their broader economic agenda. The bill is estimated to slash poverty by a third this year and potentially cut child poverty in half, with expansions of tax credits, food aid and rental and mortgage assistance.

Henri Lebasque

By Henri Lebasque

According to CNBC, people who have direct deposit could start their $1,400 checks next week.

The American Rescue Plan Act is expected to be signed by President Biden on Friday, and stimulus payments could start being sent out within days of him signing. That means Americans could start seeing the money as early as next week.

The first people to receive the checks are likely those who have direct deposit set up with the IRS. That’s because the government already has their account information on file and doesn’t need to go through the process of printing, sorting and mailing physical checks or pre-paid debit cards.

Americans who don’t have direct deposit will have to wait for the payments to be produced and sent, a process that can be time consuming.

The Washington Post: How big is the Biden stimulus bill? And who gets the most help?

This latest round of aid, which was rejected by all Republicans in Congress, marks the first major legislative victory for President Biden. In contrast with the emergency bills passed last year, the Democratic bill focuses the vast majority of aid on households, states and cities, and vaccine distribution. There is little money directed this time toward businesses….

Over half the money — 54 percent — in the bill goes toward households. In addition to the popular $1,400 checks, there is also funding for extra unemployment insurance through Labor Day, expanded tax credits, and various programs to make rent, food and health insurance more affordable.

Economists say low- and moderate-income Americans will benefit the most from this aid, especially individuals earning $75,000 or less and couples earning $150,000 or less. The number of Americans living in poverty is predicted to drop in 2021 by as much as a third because of this legislation.

The cash infusion is expected to result in a 20 percent income boost for the bottom 20 percent of earners (those making $25,000 or less), according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

At The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer writes that the bill will an important impact on climate change: The Weekly Planet: Biden’s Stimulus Is a Big Deal for Public Transit.

In little-noticed ways, the rescue bill is going to reshape several areas of American climate policy. It will revive a number of crucial, pandemic-hammered institutions central to the country’s climate response. More important, it shows how the prevailing atmosphere of American governance has shifted.

Giovanni Segantini

Giovanni Segantini

This isn’t to say it’s a climate bill, per se. But it is part of the broader climate agenda being advanced by the Biden administration.

First, the bill devotes $30.5 billion to public-transit agencies. “COVID has really decimated transit ridership, and that has eaten a huge hole in agencies’ budgets,” Ben Fried, the communications director at the think tank TransitCenter, told me. Including the latest bill, Congress has spent $60 billion on transit over the past year, money that has been key to keeping the agencies solvent, Fried said. “If they didn’t get funding, then transit would have faced existential peril at the end of last year.” In Washington, D.C., for instance, the local Metro system was contemplating eliminating weekend service and permanently closing 19 stations. The new bill is enough to support agencies’ daily operations into 2023, he said….

Second, the rescue bill has quietly become an infrastructure bill. It devotes $350 billion to supporting state and local governments. These funds, initially proposed to plug COVID-19-created holes in public budgets, in many cases now exceed those holes. So the Senate has allowed states, cities, and counties to spend that money on improving services such as water, sewage, and broadband. Because many water systems are vulnerable to climate change and must be adapted, this is de facto climate funding. The bill also contains $31 billion for tribal governments and Indigenous communities, including line items for new infrastructure, housing, and language preservation.

More broadly, the bill epitomizes the Biden administration’s more forceful approach to running the economy. It shows that much of the American political establishment—from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to Jerome Powell, the Donald Trump–appointed Federal Reserve chair—is comfortable pursuing a strategy of restoring full employment as quickly as possible, even if that creates some inflation in the short term.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

Tonight President Biden will give a prime time speech to discuss the way forward. CNN: Biden seeks to chart a path out of the pandemic in prime-time address.

President Joe Biden can report in his first prime-time address Thursday that a vaccination drive now reaching 2 million people daily has brought America far closer to exiting the pandemic than when he took office 50 days ago.

With new infections and deaths way down from their peaks of a horrific winter, Biden can afford to conjure hope that better days may be imminent and will speak to the nation from a position of political strength. He is also armed with a newly passed $1.9 trillion Covid-19 rescue package — his first major legacy achievement — which represents an ambitious attempt to rebuild the US economy to favor the less well off.

Victor Gilbert

Victor Gilbert

“This bill represents a historic, historic victory for the American people,” Biden said Wednesday, touting his rescue plan that finally cleared Congress on Wednesday and pivoting to an address that he said would inform the country what “comes next” in the effort to prevail over the coronavirus. A clear majority of Americans — 60% — approves of the new President’s handling of the pandemic in a new CNN poll. He has reintroduced the nation to calm, functional leadership and a scientific approach to the public health crisis, and has ended the stream of vitriol that poured from the Oval Office for four years.

Yet in a national crisis this deep and in a country so polarized less than two months since ex-President Donald Trump’s insurrection, nothing is remotely normal. While Biden honored campaign promises to take the virus seriously, to secure funds to get kids back to school and to help Americans pummeled by the economic crisis, his White House is weighed down by stark challenges.

A White House official said Biden’s Thursday night speech, expected to last about 20 minutes, would focus on the lives lost and changed in the pandemic and the work Biden’s administration has done to rapidly increase the vaccination effort. The President will also explain what must still be done to defeat the virus, the official said.

Next, Biden will begin a “media blitz” to sell his plan. Vanity Fair:

After President Joe Biden signs his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law this week, he is set to embark on a press tour to sell his COVID-19 relief package to the American public, starting with a primetime address on Thursday, likely followed by his first formal news conference in the days after, CNN reports. The media and travel blitz comes as reporters have grown increasingly frustrated over lack of access to Biden, who has yet to hold the kind of solo, back-and-forth press conference that his 15 most recent predecessors—including Donald Trump—had all submitted themselves to by this point in their term. He has also yet to address a joint session of Congress, another appearance reportedly set to take place next month. 

While Biden taking off on meticulously planned sales tour may not yield the type of freewheeling exchanges that reporters are clamoring for, it makes political sense for the White House to get the president on the road. Biden’s relief package is overwhelmingly popular among Americans—about 70 percent—but less so with GOP lawmakers in Washington, whose total opposition required Democrats to push the bill through the budget reconciliation process. Going that route means many provisions, such as increased subsidies for health insurance and expanded child tax credit, have a one-year expiration date. “Making them permanent will require another act of Congress that would likely need some Republicans on board,” according to CNN.

Eerno Järnefelt

Eerno Järnefelt

It will be a two-part effort, starting with spelling out the impact of the package to Americans. Biden has said that the Obama administration “didn’t adequately explain what we had done” with the 2009 stimulus. “I kept saying, ‘Tell people what we did.’ [Barack Obama] said, ‘We don’t have time. I’m not going to take a victory lap.’ And we paid a price for it, ironically, for that humility,” the president recently told House Democrats. This time around, Biden’s team is focused on making sure Americans know that relief measures, such as individual stimulus checks, come as direct results of his American Rescue Plan, and are reportedly using local media and outside coalition groups to help establish that connection. 

Among the groups and leaders supportive of the package and thus capable of being leveraged by Biden’s team are “over 400 bipartisan mayors and governors, organized labor and the business community, as well as economists and experts from across the political spectrum,” one White House official told Axios. Benefits to schools, vaccine distribution, and food supply for low-income families are among the parts of the package that cabinet officials and White House aides will team up to publicly promote, according to another administration official. Axios notes that the strategy at play extends beyond short-term goals, such as the 2022 midterms; maintaining wide support for the bill rewards Biden’s ability to “build on the legislation and make it harder for the next Republican president to unwind.”

Much more is happening. Here are some additional stories to check out today:

Buzzfeed News says that today is a one year anniversary of our realization of the seriousness of the pandemic: March 11: Tom Hanks, The NBA, And COVID’s Day Of Reckoning In The US: An Oral History.

NPR: Whistleblowers Allege Improper Hiring At Justice Department During Trump’s Last Days.

The Bulwark: Can Biden Restore the Pentagon’s Balance of Power?

The New York Times: Oath Keepers Founder Is Said to Be Investigated in Capitol Riot.

The Washington Post: Veteran charged in Capitol riot once served in Marine One squadron, officials say.

Trump is in more trouble in Georgia than we realized. CNN: Wall Street Journal: Trump pressured Georgia investigator to find ‘the right answer’ in baseless fraud push.

More trouble in New York too. Reuters: Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen to meet again with Manhattan DA in Trump probe.

Talking Points Memo: Cuomo Accuser Claims Governor Groped Her At Executive Mansion.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind?

8 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice Thursday, everyone!!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      an infrastructure bill

      This is intelligent! Much needed. Amazing, isn’t it, to see Congress (excepting the Republicans) and a President doing this. Finally.

  3. Enheduanna says:

    Glorious paintings BB! The weather is like that here in GA. My tulips are coming up and jonquils are blooming along with a camellia bush. I even got out and weeded some planting beds this week.

    It finally feels like the beginning of a time for healing for all of us.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Wonderful. It is supposed to get up to 68 here today!

      • NW Luna says:

        Here we’re in the middle of what’s supposed to be 5 days of sunshine! Only 4 days ago we had hail. My crocus have been up for a couple of weeks and the honeybees are getting early pollen off them. The grape hyacinths are poking their heads up. The azara, with its vanilla-butterscotch-chocolate scent is blooming and smells heavenly. I feel like a different person with the sun and balmy (mid-50s, lol) temperature.

    • dakinikat says:

      The ornamental magnolias are Blooming. It’s getting to feel like we’ll have a decent spring!

  4. NW Luna says:

    That Guardian story:

    Always with keys out’: hundreds of women tell of fear of walking alone
    Politicians, writers and others share stories after officer is arrested on suspicion of Sarah Everard’s murder

    This is news??? It’s not hundreds of women, it’s millions. #LivingInPatriarchy #LivingWhileFemale