Biden signs $1.9T relief bill before speech to nation

President Joe Biden/AP photo

President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion relief package that he says will help the U.S. defeat the coronavirus and nurse the economy back to health

Posted: Mar 11, 2021 7:11 AM
Updated: Mar 11, 2021 7:02 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Marking a year of loss and disruption, President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law the $1.9 trillion relief package that he said will help the U.S. defeat the coronavirus and nurse the economy back to health.

The signing came hours before Biden delivers his first prime-time address since taking office. He's aiming to steer the nation toward a hungered-for sentiment — hope — as he marks one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 529,000 Americans.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country," Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.

Biden originally planned to sign the bill on Friday, but it arrived at the White House more quickly than anticipated.

"We want to move as fast as possible,” tweeted White House chief of staff Ron Klain. He added, “We will hold our celebration of the signing on Friday, as planned, with congressional leaders!”

Previewing his remarks, Biden said he would “talk about what we’ve been through as a nation this past year, but more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next.”

Biden’s challenge Thursday night will be to honor the sacrifices made by Americans over the last year while encouraging them to remain vigilant despite “virus fatigue” and growing impatience to resume normal activities given the tantalizing promise of vaccines. Speaking on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, he’ll mourn the dead, but also project optimism about the future.

“This is a chance for him to really beam into everybody’s living rooms and to be both the mourner in chief and to explain how he’s leading the country out of this,” said presidential historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley.

“This is a big moment,” Brinkley added. “He’s got to win over hearts and minds for people to stay masked and get vaccinated, but also recognize that after the last year, the federal government hasn’t forgotten you.”

Biden’s evening remarks in the East Room are central to a pivotal week for the president as he addresses the defining challenge of his term: shepherding the nation through the twin public health and economic storms brought about by the virus.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released initial guidance for how vaccinated people can resume some normal activities. On Wednesday, Congress approved the president’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” aimed at easing the economic impact of the virus on tens of millions of people. And the nation was on pace to administer its 100 millionth dose of vaccine as soon as Thursday.

Biden said he would focus his remarks on what his administration plans to deliver in the coming months, but also reiterate his call for Americans to continue to practice social distancing and wear face coverings to hasten the end of the pandemic.

“I’m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people,” he said.

He added: “There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of the past year. There is real reason for hope.”

Almost exactly one year ago, President Donald Trump addressed the nation to mark the WHO’s declaration of a global pandemic. He announced travel restrictions and called for Americans to practice good hygiene but displayed little alarm about the forthcoming catastrophe. Trump, it was later revealed, acknowledged that he had been deliberately “playing down” the threat of the virus.

For Biden, who has promised to level with the American public after the alternate reality of Trump’s virus talk, the imperative is to strike the correct balance “between optimism and grief,” said Princeton history professor and presidential scholar Julian Zelizer.

“Generally, the country likes optimism, and at this particular moment they’re desperate for optimism, but you can’t risk a ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment,’” he said, warning against any premature declaration that the threat has been vanquished.

Fifty days into his presidency, Biden is experiencing a polling honeymoon that his predecessor never enjoyed. Yet public sentiment remains stubbornly polarized and fewer people among his critics seem willing to say they’ll give him a chance than was the case for earlier presidents. Overall, he has earned strong marks on his handling of the pandemic.

According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released last week, 70% of Americans back the Democratic president’s handling of the virus response, including 44% of Republicans.

The White House hopes that as Biden assumes the role of cheerleader for the virus relief package, the elements of the $1.9 trillion bill that are popular with Republicans will boost his support even further.

Brinkley said Biden’s decision to deliver a speech aimed directly at the nation before he makes the traditional presidential address to a joint session of Congress signals that it is as much an “introduction” of the president and his administration to the American people as a status report on his first 50 days in office.

Presidential addresses to Congress “tend to be a series of soundbites,” Brinkley said. “This way, he can make his case directly.”

Still, the prime-time speech is in many ways an anachronism, better suited for an era when Americans had vastly fewer television options and in which a presidential address could reframe the national conversation.

The fragmented media landscape makes it more difficult for Biden to reach people, Zelizer said, but that may be beside the point.

“Everything he’s doing is throwback,” said Zelizer. “It’s part of his effort to create normalcy after the last four years.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 591445

Reported Deaths: 7367
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1224421730
Ramsey51212875
Dakota45791452
Anoka41604438
Washington26834283
Stearns22196222
St. Louis17734303
Scott17244124
Wright16009139
Olmsted1322598
Sherburne1167187
Carver1047545
Clay814492
Rice8037107
Blue Earth749641
Crow Wing663189
Kandiyohi654283
Chisago596651
Otter Tail574078
Benton568297
Goodhue477272
Douglas466375
Mower464832
Winona453950
Itasca435556
McLeod422559
Isanti419664
Morrison418260
Nobles407648
Beltrami394459
Steele386715
Polk383568
Becker379751
Lyon360251
Carlton345054
Freeborn341529
Pine327822
Nicollet325643
Brown305040
Mille Lacs303253
Le Sueur290922
Todd281632
Cass271328
Meeker255740
Waseca235922
Martin230531
Roseau209019
Wabasha20513
Hubbard188341
Dodge18453
Renville179743
Redwood174037
Houston171616
Cottonwood164821
Fillmore155910
Wadena155922
Pennington153619
Chippewa152138
Faribault152119
Kanabec144326
Sibley143110
Aitkin134736
Watonwan13219
Rock128119
Jackson121712
Pipestone115426
Yellow Medicine114120
Pope11006
Murray10619
Swift105218
Stevens90411
Marshall88117
Clearwater86616
Koochiching82715
Wilkin81112
Lake80919
Lac qui Parle75222
Big Stone6004
Lincoln5813
Grant5748
Mahnomen5469
Norman5399
Unassigned48993
Kittson48622
Red Lake3957
Traverse3695
Lake of the Woods3243
Cook1620

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 366827

Reported Deaths: 5937
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57596625
Linn20845335
Scott20025241
Black Hawk15803308
Woodbury15128228
Johnson1447483
Dubuque13368208
Dallas1117898
Pottawattamie11113168
Story1061248
Warren577088
Clinton555593
Cerro Gordo539789
Sioux514474
Webster512393
Marshall482975
Muscatine480799
Des Moines455766
Wapello4299122
Buena Vista424540
Jasper418872
Plymouth401180
Lee375755
Marion362575
Jones298957
Henry291637
Carroll285752
Bremer284360
Crawford266440
Boone264534
Benton256455
Washington254150
Dickinson248343
Mahaska230351
Jackson221742
Clay215525
Kossuth215364
Delaware209541
Tama209571
Winneshiek196834
Page192622
Buchanan191232
Cedar190023
Hardin185243
Fayette185041
Wright184637
Hamilton179849
Harrison179573
Clayton169456
Butler164934
Mills162322
Madison162219
Floyd160542
Cherokee158738
Lyon157941
Poweshiek154734
Allamakee151551
Iowa148724
Hancock147834
Winnebago142431
Cass138554
Calhoun138413
Grundy136333
Emmet134140
Jefferson132335
Shelby131037
Sac130319
Union128333
Louisa128049
Appanoose127949
Mitchell126342
Chickasaw124015
Guthrie121530
Franklin120021
Humboldt119126
Palo Alto112723
Howard104622
Montgomery103338
Clarke100124
Unassigned9710
Keokuk95831
Monroe95229
Ida90535
Adair86532
Pocahontas85522
Davis82924
Monona82830
Osceola78616
Greene77610
Lucas77323
Worth7478
Taylor65812
Fremont6229
Decatur6089
Van Buren55818
Ringgold55624
Wayne53923
Audubon51010
Adams3384
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