Biden Begins ‘Help is Here’ Tour    

U.S. President Joe Biden traveled Tuesday to a suburb of Philadelphia to promote a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package, which was his first major legislative victory.  “We’re in a position where it’s going to bring immediate relief,” the president told the minority owners of a flooring company in Chester, Pennsylvania. “You should be aware more help is on the way, for real.”  During the pandemic, according to officials, Smith Flooring received Paycheck Protection Program loans and it also qualifies for additional programs under the American Rescue Plan, which the president signed into law last week.  President Joe Biden waves from the top of the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., March 16, 2021, as he prepares to depart for a trip to Pennsylvania.National polls have shown that the relief package has wide support, even among Republicans, but Biden’s travels this week, part of what’s being called the “Help is Here” tour, demonstrate he is not taking its popularity for granted.  Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, are taking part in the effort as well. They met with small business owners at an empanada shop in Colorado on Tuesday. The previous day Harris visited a vaccination site on the campus of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and a local Mexican restaurant.  The vice president was asked by a reporter in Las Vegas why the administration feels compelled to sell the plan, which enjoys widespread public support.   “It’s not selling,” Harris replied. “It’s kind of like you buy a product — you’re already sold on the product, but you need some directions out of the box.”   Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive at Maria Empanada, in Denver, March 16, 2021.Both Biden and Harris are to make appearances in Atlanta, Georgia, on Friday. “In the coming weeks, President Biden will lay out his economic recovery plan to invest in America, create millions of additional good-paying jobs, and build back better than before,” the White House said in a statement issued Tuesday.  Biden on Tuesday reiterated that within the next week or so his administration would get out 100 million checks that are part of the rescue plan and reach 100 million coronavirus vaccine shots since he took office. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the same day, said the president should not take too much credit for what the lawmaker called “the optimistic springtime that lies before us.”  FILE – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky walks from the Senate floor to his office on Capitol Hill, Jan. 6, 2021.”The groundwork we laid last year is proving an historic success,” McConnell said. ”Where the Biden administration is continuing to help streamline distribution, they should of course get some credit. But their effort to sprint to the front of this year-long campaign should not fool anybody.”  The appearances of Biden, Harris and other top administration officials are intended to highlight to voters how the aid, approved by both chambers of Congress despite uniform Republican opposition, could help them. Republican lawmakers objected to the size of the deal and said that some of the funding is not tied directly to trying to end the pandemic in the United States.   First lady Jill Biden went to the state of New Jersey on Monday where she joined Governor Phil Murphy at a school in Burlington.     FILE – U.S. First Lady Jill Biden delivers remarks at the playground of the Samuel Smith Elementary School in Burlington, New Jersey, March 15, 2021.”We are going to safely open schools. We are going to get people back to work. We’re going to lift up the families who are struggling to get by,” she said at the Samuel Smith Elementary School.     The American Rescue Plan is one of the largest economic assistance packages in U.S. history but not a single Republican, in either the House or the Senate, voted in favor of it.   Many of the opposition party complained that much of it had little to do directly with the suffering caused by COVID-19.  “The American Rescue Plan includes a $350 billion bailout for states, rewarding those with poor fiscal management and punishing those who operated responsibly during the pandemic. Funds can be used for virtually anything a state chooses to spend money on, with next to nothing in terms of constraints or restrictions,” said Republican Senator Mike Crapo in a statement on Monday.   The ranking member of the Senate finance committee and his fellow Idaho Republican senator, Jim Risch, have introduced a bill to eliminate a provision in the legislation that prevents states from using relief funds to cut taxes. Millions of adult Americans, all but those in upper-income tax brackets, are receiving $1,400 stimulus checks, with tax credits for children. Billions of dollars are being sent to state and local governments and businesses that have been hit hard by the year-long pandemic.  Additional aid is being spent to boost vaccinations of millions of Americans, where more than 536,000 Americans have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.