WASHINGTON — With his predecessor’s impeachment trial no longer a distraction, President Joe Biden will visit Milwaukee on Tuesday, making his first official trip as president as he pushes for quick approval of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
It comes after the U.S. Senate on Saturday voted to acquit former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial and as Biden zeroes in on his policy agenda to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The short stay – followed by a second visit on Thursday to a Pfizer manufacturing site in Kalamazoo, Michigan – gives Biden an opportunity to tout his administration’s work to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and rally support behind his American Rescue Plan, which he wants Congress to pass in the coming weeks.
“With the impeachment trial in the rear-view mirror, Biden can really hit upon some of the things that he’s already said as president-elect were going to be a priority,” said Paul Nolette, associate professor of political science at Marquette University. “Addressing COVID-19, particularly ramping up the vaccines, and really pushing his stimulus package.”
Broad public support of bill hasn’t translated to Republicans in Congress
The trip to Wisconsin is his first outside Washington, his home state of Delaware or the Camp David presidential retreat since becoming president. Biden is expected to arrive in Milwaukee in the early evening and has no other stops scheduled before he boards Air Force One back to Washington.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden will take “take questions from Americans about the issues they are facing every day, including the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis.”
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper will moderate the forum, which will feature “an invitation-only, socially distanced audience.”
As Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill heads through Congress, the White House has pointed to widespread public support in public polling to argue the package is bipartisan. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 68% of Americans support passage of the legislation, including 37% of Republican voters, 68% of independents and 97% of Democrats. Yet no Republican members of Congress have expressed support for the bill.
Nolette called the town hall an opportunity to “speak to the American people” as Biden seeks to build more support and sway some Republicans his direction.
“Especially given that this is the first event like this as president,” he said, “I think it will get a particularly large amount of attention and really is an opportunity for him to press the necessity for his COVID relief bill.”
Biden stayed mostly quiet about Trump’s impeachment trial as the former president faced charges of inciting an insurrection for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. A 57-43 majority of the Senate voted to convict Trump, but fell short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction.
Throughout the proceedings, the White House repeatedly deferred to the judgement of the Senate. In a statement following the Senate’s acquittal, Biden said, “While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute.”
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a close Biden ally, said it’s time for Congress to take action on COVID-19 in with Trump’s impeachment trial over.
“I think that phase of accountability moves to the courts now,” Coons said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “And we in Congress need to move forward with delivering the expanded unemployment checks, the stimulus checks, the reinvestment in our economy that the American people so desperately need and deserve.”
A nod to DNC host city that had plans scrapped
In choosing Wisconsin for his first official trip as president, Biden will return to a critical Midwest swing state that he campaigned in three times ahead of his election victory over Trump. Biden won the state by just 20,608 votes four years after Trump carried the state by 22,748 votes in 2020. It will be a battleground again in 2024.
The trip is also a nod to Milwaukee, the original host city for last summer’s Democratic National Convention before the pandemic forced a mostly virtual gathering.
“People across the city and the state were really looking forward to having the nation’s eyes on the city,” Nolette said. “I don’t think that was a pure coincidence that Milwaukee, the place that was supposed to hold the convention, is Biden’s first stop outside of his home state and D.C.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @Joeygarrison.