Biden rallies in Georgia to mark 100 days
Democratic stars from the crucial state turn out to help promote his ambitious agenda.
Taking the stage amid a din of honking horns and looking out on a vast blacktop of more than 300 parked cars, Biden stood before large banners that read “Getting back on track” as he celebrated the progress made against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden highlighted the doubling of his initial goal of administering 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days, and he touted the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan he enacted in March that delivered $1,400 direct relief checks to millions of Americans.
The scale of the sweeping legislation, which also included a child tax credit for families and funding for mass vaccination sites and schools seeking to reopen, was enabled by the Democrats’ sweep of two Senate runoffs in Georgia in January, which wrested control of the Senate from Republicans and cleared a path for Biden to go big.
“Those two votes made the difference!” Biden said, describing the COVID-19 relief bill as “one of the most consequential” laws ever enacted. “It passed by a single vote. That means we owe a special thanks to the people of Georgia. Because thanks to you, the rest of the American people were able to get the help they need.”
The two senators who won those races, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, attended the rally, which was sponsored by the Democratic Party, and joined the president onstage as he concluded his speech.
Biden, well aware of the precariousness of Democrats’ narrow edge in an evenly divided Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker, urged voters to help reelect Warnock next year: “We won the first round, but there’s more coming up,” he told the crowd.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams also showed up — Democratic stars looking to help solidify the party’s grip on this hotly contested state that will be critical in deciding the balance of power again in the 2022 midterm election and the next presidential contest in 2024.
Georgia has also been at the center of a national debate around voting rights. Last month, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law new GOP-backed restrictions on state elections, including limiting voting by mail while giving greater oversight of elections to the Republican-led state Legislature.
“It’s just wrong,” Biden said of the law, calling on Congress to take up two Democratic bills that seek to protect voting rights.
In the near term, Georgia offered Biden his first barnstorming opportunity following his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night as he looks to drum up public support for a legislative agenda that is increasingly ambitious and progressive.
Biden is eager to follow up on his coronavirus relief bill with an additional $4 trillion of investments in the country’s infrastructure and expanded benefits for workers and families. He touted new jobs numbers showing the economy growing at a rate of 6.4% as proof that government action will pay dividends.
“As much as we’ve done, we’ve got more to do,” he said.
While traveling, Biden spoke with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the architect of the GOP counterproposal on infrastructure. According to the White House, they had a “warm conversation” and discussed continuing talks in person soon.
After proposing his $2.25-trillion infrastructure package weeks ago, Biden laid out a companion proposal this week to invest an additional $1.8 trillion in subsidies to give all Americans access to two years of free preschool and two years of free community college. The proposal would also guarantee that low-income families pay no more than 7% of their earnings on child care, and would expand a number of tax credits and enact a more generous federal paid family and medical leave policy.
The American Families Plan, like the proposed investments in the American Jobs Plan to improve roads, bridges, rail lines and airports, would be paid for by altering the tax code so that the wealthiest Americans and large corporations contribute more.
Biden and aides have argued that the proposals are “generational investments” that are critical to ensuring America has the “human infrastructure” for long-term competitiveness with China. Moreover, the White House argues, the investments will fuel economic growth.
Biden had a similar drive-in rally scheduled in Georgia in March to promote the COVID-19 relief package that passed that month, but instead ended up meeting with grieving Asian Americans after deadly attacks at three Atlanta-area spas.
Eight people were killed — six of them women of Asian descent — and a 21-year-old white man was arrested. Those attacks and other recent shootings have led to a renewed push for gun safety measures.
As the president began his remarks, a few protesters interrupted, shouting, “End detention now!” in reference to private holding centers.
“I agree with you. I’m working on it, man,” he said, telling the crowd that he opposes private prisons. “We are working to close all of them.... I promise you.”
Biden has said before, including during his campaign, that he would end the for-profit detention of immigrants.
Before the rally, Biden flew to Plains, Ga., to visit former President Carter, 96, and wife Rosalynn Carter, 93, who have remained active but did not attend the January inauguration due to the pandemic.
Addressing the crowd at the rally, First Lady Jill Biden said the Carters are “a powerful reminder that serving your country isn’t just about the office you hold.”