Biden’s trip to Georgia to thank state that gave ‘voice to his presidency’

President Joe Biden will make two stops in Georgia on Thursday to mark the first 100 days of his term in the White House. He will visit former President Jimmy Carter in Plains, and he will also participate in a drive-in rally in Gwinnett County. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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President Joe Biden will make two stops in Georgia on Thursday to mark the first 100 days of his term in the White House. He will visit former President Jimmy Carter in Plains, and he will also participate in a drive-in rally in Gwinnett County. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

Credit: TNS

When President Joe Biden arrives in Georgia on Thursday, he won’t just be commemorating his first 100 days in office. He’ll also be taking a victory lap in the state that put his expansive legislative agenda within reach.

Biden is set to visit former President Jimmy Carter in his hometown of Plains and headline a drive-in rally in Gwinnett County the day after rolling out a sweeping $1.8 trillion plan to expand access to education and bolster family assistance programs that would be partly financed by higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

The proposal is a part of a package of overhauls of a scope some analysts say has not been seen since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, all told amounting to roughly $6 trillion in new spending proposals before Biden crossed the 100-day threshold.

And his visit to the state is partly aimed at sending a thank-you to supporters who made it possible, not just through his narrow victory in Georgia’s November vote but also the January runoff sweep by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock that flipped control of the U.S. Senate.

Without those upset wins, Biden would have had to navigate a Washington under divided political control, forcing him to pursue a much more limited agenda to squeeze through a U.S. Senate helmed by Republicans. Instead, the Georgia victories secured a 50-50 split in the Senate that gave Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote.

“It is perfectly symbolic that he would come to Georgia for this event given that Georgia made the difference for his administration, and his administration is trying to make the difference for all of America,” said Keith Mason, a veteran Democratic operative who helped arrange Biden’s pre-election swing to the rural town of Warm Springs a week before the vote.

“Without those Senate victories, there wouldn’t have been a coronavirus rescue plan. There wouldn’t be a major infrastructure plan,” Mason said. “Georgia has given voice to his presidency.”

GOP chair David Shafer said the president should instead spend his time in Georgia on “an apology tour to the businesses and workers who are suffering” as a result of his administration.

A ‘poker game’

Biden’s visit comes on the heels of his first joint address to Congress, where he outlined the American Families Plan, which calls for a rush of new spending to finance universal pre-kindergarten, free community college for all, an expanded anti-poverty initiative and new health care subsidies.

The plan would be paid for through tax hikes on some of the nation’s highest earners and stricter enforcement of Internal Revenue Service rules. It seeks $80 billion in new investment in the agency with the goal of recouping $700 billion in additional revenue from delinquent corporations and individuals.

It follows two other expansive packages. Biden and his congressional allies muscled through a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in March without a single Republican vote in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

The stimulus package has quickly become a dividing line in Georgia politics. It financed $1,400 direct stimulus checks for many residents and devoted roughly $8.6 billion in aid for state and local governments, funds that largely still haven’t been allocated.

Republicans have tried to turn public opinion against the package, saying it will cause a surge in the national deficit and overcompensate larger states with struggling economies at Georgia’s expense while funding liberal priorities that have nothing to do with coronavirus relief. Polls, though, have shown that the package is popular with most Americans.

Biden has also proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package that would go far beyond tackling roads and bridges to include funding to expand broadband access, upgrade public schools, spur the development of more affordable housing, and finance research and development projects.

The plans have encountered stiff opposition from Republicans who say the record spending will lead to a record deficit and waste. They also resist the tax increases, which they cast as an attack on the package of tax cuts then-President Donald Trump signed into law in 2017. Senate Republicans have also unveiled a more modest infrastructure proposal that they say includes more targeted spending.

Biden’s trip to Georgia, his second since taking office and fourth since his November victory, also signals the central role the state will play in the midterms. That’s when Warnock will stand for a full six-year term in the Senate in what’s expected to be one of the nation’s most competitive battlegrounds.

Along with Warnock’s seat, every statewide constitutional office is up for grabs, and Republicans are still roiled in intense infighting that has cost Gov. Brian Kemp and other GOP incumbents support from pro-Trump factions of their party. Some Republicans are sounding the alarm.

“The Democratic Party is all hands on deck. That’s what you’re seeing by President Biden coming down here,” said Martha Zoller, a conservative commentator and former GOP congressional candidate.

Still, she said, the same polarizing issues that rev up Democrats can also rev up Republicans, and Biden’s focus on the state and embrace of trillions of dollars in spending could help drive conservative turnout next year.

“There’s a lot of chips on the table still,” she said. “This is a poker game, and both sides still have a lot of cards to play.”

Biden’s first 100 days in Georgia

  • The Democratic-backed stimulus package paid for $1,400 direct stimulus checks for residents who earn less than $75,000 per year or married couples who earn less than $150,000.

Under the complicated aid formula, the state of Georgia will receive about $4.6 billion, and the 159 county governments will receive a combined $2.1 billion. An additional $1.4 billion will be distributed to 534 Georgia cities. More than 190 cities will receive at least $1 million.

  • The administration pushed to build out a nationwide vaccine distribution infrastructure. Federal officials in March opened a mass-vaccination site at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to dispense tens of thousands of lifesaving doses each week at a time when state officials were struggling to cope with demand.
  • Biden immediately butted heads with state Republican officials, and a top federal health care official soon put on hold Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to provide health coverage to thousands of low-income and uninsured adults as long as they meet a work or activity requirement.
  • Biden assailed Georgia’s new election law, calling the voter restrictions an “atrocity” and a “blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience,” leading to Republican counterattacks that he was misstating its effects. He said he’d “strongly support” Major League Baseball moving its All-Star game from Truist Park days before MLB yanked the event in protest of the law.
  • The president also sought to reward his most loyal supporters, chief among them Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. He held his first campaign fundraiser since his election for Bottoms, who faces a tough November reelection campaign.