WASHINGTON – The Senate was still minutes away from passing Joe Biden’s pandemic relief package on Saturday when the White House tweeted out a video of the president telling a single mom from Michigan that her family could get a $7,000 stimulus check.
"I think you're going to be in good shape," Biden told Tammy, a health care professional. "1,400 bucks for you and 1,400 bucks for each of your children."
Trying to avoid the missteps from 2009 when the Obama administration didn’t get a political bounce from its economic stimulus package, the Biden administration is putting a heavy emphasis on selling the benefits of the $1.9 trillion plan, which the House is expected to finalize Tuesday.
“We’re going to take some time to talk about it to people,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC Sunday when asked whether Biden was moving on to infrastructure legislation.
Republicans argue Biden's COVID-19 relief package is a massively expensive bill bloated with liberal priorities that aren't directly related to combating the pandemic.
But Biden over the next few days is likely to emphasize the legislation's funding for vaccinations. He toured a veteran's vaccination center in Washington on Monday, where he watched workers mix the vaccine and administer the shots.
"We’re doing pretty good across the country," he said. "We’re going to hit 100 million (vaccinations) soon."
On Tuesday, Biden is expected to visit a small business that has benefited from pandemic help. He had been scheduled to travel to Baltimore on Wednesday to meet with vaccine makers Merck and Johnson & Johnson, but the trip has been canceled. The meeting will take place at the White House instead.
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The bill passed along party lines in the Senate after a marathon session in which other Democrats, including Biden, stepped in to keep West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin on board when he differed on provisions for unemployment benefits.
It could head to Biden's desk for his signature as early as Tuesday, and stimulus checks could go out soon after.
Mayors will hear from Vice President Kamala Harris about federal assistance on Monday.
On Thursday, Biden will mark what the White House is calling the anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown by delivering his first primetime address to the nation. Psaki said he will talk about "the many sacrifices that the American people have made over the last year and the grave loss communities and families across the country have suffered."
After the bill's expected passage, the White House is expected to finalize arrangements for the president's first joint address to Congress.
That's when Biden will talk about the next phase of his recovery plan, which includes his Build Back Better agenda to improve infrastructure and more.
Biden's preferred $15 minimum wage was stripped out of the pandemic package for procedural reasons.
But that level is also opposed by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Manchin. As a moderate in a Senate where Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote from their own party, Manchin was also able to force changes to the bill's unemployment benefits. Deliberations were delayed for more than nine hours when Manchin negotiated a change.
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"Going forward, there's a whole series of issues that quite a few of us were discussing on the floor last night and this morning and today that require bipartisan legislation, whether it's immigration or infrastructure or now raising the minimum wage," Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a confidant of Biden, told reporters Saturday. "But this was a reminder yesterday that, in a 50-50 Senate, if any one member changes their mind on an amendment, or vote or an issue, it can change the outcome."
Democrats, whose margin in the House is only slightly bigger than in the Senate, now have to hope progressives in the lower chamber don't bolt.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow said the glue that held Senate Democrats together was being able "to do something so big and so significant" only 45 days into Biden's presidency. She said she was among the lawmakers overcome with emotion as the package passed Saturday, thinking about what the provisions would mean for families struggling to feed and take care of their children.
"This is the best day of my Senate life," said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a progressive Democrat who has long urged the party to focus more on working-class Americans. "We passed so many big things."
But they did it without any GOP votes, even though the five other COVID-19 packages passed with support from both parties last year when control of Congress was split between the two parties.
Brown said Democrats learned their lesson from the Obama administration, when the president spent months trying to get bipartisan buy-in on his health care overhaul and other issues.
This time, Brown said, Democrats realized it doesn't matter how the Senate votes line up.
'What matters is if we deliver what the public wants," he said.
Polls show the latest package enjoys wide popularity, particularly the direct payments to Americans.
Democrats also are trying to keep history from repeating itself by getting more political credit for the bill than they got for the 2009 economic stimulus during the Great Recession.
"We didn’t adequately explain what we had done," Biden told House Democrats last week.
Obama was too modest to take a victory lap, Biden said, arguing there wasn't time.
"And we paid a price for it, ironically, for that humility," he said.
Dan Pfeiffer, who was one of Obama's communications directors, had a slightly different take.
Obama gave speech after speech and visited factory after factory, Pfeiffer wrote in a newsletter published on Substack Sunday.
"But it was nearly impossible to break through the avalanche of bad news," he wrote.
The good news for Biden, he said, is it's not 2009, and the 2021 package is more easily understood with benefits likely to be broadly felt before too long.
Democrats believe it's now Republicans who could pay a political price.
"There are some questions that some Republicans may have to answer as people start getting their checks," Psaki said Sunday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the stimulus package "a parade of left-wing pet projects that they are ramming through during a pandemic."
"This isn’t a pandemic rescue package," he said during the Senate debate.
But some Republican officeholders outside Washington welcome the assistance.
"What we need to do is we need to go big or don't go," West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday. "And so I'm pleased with the fact that we're going big" to get the economy going.
While putting pressure on Republicans, the White House maintains that Biden still wants to reach bipartisan deals where possible.
He's also going to "defer to leaders in Congress about the mechanisms and the mechanics of moving these things forward," Psaki said.
That includes not calling for ending the filibuster, which would allow Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority. The filibuster-proof procedural mechanism that Democrats are using for the pandemic package cannot be deployed for everything on their wish list.
"His preference is not to end the filibuster. He wants to work with Republicans, to work with independents," White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said on CNN. "He believes that we're stronger when we build a broad coalition of support."
Calls for ending, or at least modifying, the filibuster have increased in recent weeks – and not just from progressives.
While Manchin remains steadfast in his support for the filibuster, he said Sunday that he could see making "it a little bit more painful' for a senator to use it. Senators who object to legislation moving forward, for example, could have to "stand there and talk" for hours instead of merely objecting.
"I'm willing to look at any way we can," Manchin said NBC's "Meet the Press." "But I'm not willing to take away the involvement of the minority."
Still, Manchin expressed optimism that agreements could be made on outstanding issues like raising the minimum wage, which many senators want to do even if they can't agree on the specifics.
"We’ll work this out," Manchin said, '"and move forward, the way it should be."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Biden to 'take time' to explain COVID-19 stimulus package