The White House is turning to top Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill to hit the trail and help sell President Biden’s recently-passed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The administration has had preliminary conversations with Democrats they think would prove effective on the stump as Biden launches a communication tour designed to explain to Americans how the far-reaching stimulus plan impacts them directly.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) office is involved in early discussions about possible travel. And the White House has reached out to Democratic Reps. Raul Ruiz (Calif.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), according to sources familiar with the discussions. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), did events recently in Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) did events in her home state as well.
“I’ve had conversations about it but I can’t say more than that,” Warren said when asked about stumping for Biden’s bill across the country.
Sanders said when it comes to doing events for Biden, “at this point the answer is no, but we’ll see — I think they’re doing a great job.”
Klobuchar and Warren have national followings owing to their 2020 primary runs. Sanders has one of the biggest fan bases in politics and has previously traveled into rural locations in Trump-voting states in order to sell progressive policies like minimum wage hikes and single payer health care. Sanders’ office reached out to the White House about travel to promote the stimulus package, according to a source familiar with the conversations.
A White House official said the administration has been in touch with Sanders and other members on the Hill to coordinate efforts to explain the relief plan to the public in their home states and nationally. Georgia’s newly elected Democratic senators, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, have also been invited to participate in Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ events in the state on Friday.
The prospects of a collaborative PR effort across the Democratic Party, including with Biden’s former presidential rivals, reflects the urgency Democrats are bringing to the task of selling the stimulus bill. It’s become an article of faith among members that they erred in 2009 by working with the GOP on a stimulus bill that was too small to deal with the economic crisis or be recognized by voters as being helpful to them. They also believe that the then-Obama White House didn’t adequately explain the package to the public.
In 2010 the party lost its House majority and stayed in the minority there for eight years.
“We negotiated that bill down to get Republican support and it didn’t end up being big enough. So when we tried to explain the need to pass the Recovery Act, a lot of people didn’t buy it because they didn’t see how it affected their lives. That’s not going to happen this time,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who served in the House then.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) hasn’t been contacted by the White House to help sell the package in other parts of the country, but has started some efforts in his home state, according to a Senate aide. Manchin has penned eight local op-eds in the days since Biden signed the relief plan into law and his office plans to host Q&As with local officials after the Treasury Department issues guidelines on how the money allocated for localities to battle the pandemic and boost local industries can and cannot be spent.
As the White House looks to deploy House and Senate Democrats, Biden and Harris are already crisscrossing the country to sell the bill themselves.
Biden traveled to Chester, Pennsylvania on Tuesday to highlight the aid delivered to small businesses in the plan, which directed billions of dollars to the Paycheck Protection Program and other grant programs. And Harris kicked off her part of the tour in Las Vegas, Nevada on Monday, visiting a vaccination site and with members of the culinary union.
“I’m here also to make sure we get the word out, so folks know what they are entitled to receive,” Harris told reporters during her trip on Monday. She added that it “is supposed to be the job of your government” to help “when you need a little assistance to get over a moment of crisis you didn’t create.”