But Democrats are increasingly confident that if they can deliver boldly on coronavirus relief, and take credit for a relatively fast and effective distribution of the vaccine, they will be rewarded in the midterm elections in November 2022, as the G.O.P. struggles to regain its footing. Over two-thirds of Americans, including 68 percent of independents, said in a Quinnipiac University poll released this month that they supported passing the $1.9 trillion relief bill that Biden has proposed.
House Democrats today unveiled a nearly 600-page proposal for the legislation, and in his remarks this afternoon, the president virtually dared Republicans in Congress to oppose the bill. “Critics say that my plan is too big, that it costs $1.9 trillion,” Biden said. “Let me ask them: What would they have me cut? What would they have me leave out? Should we not invest $20 billion to vaccinate the nation? Should we not invest $290 million to extend unemployment insurance for the 11 million Americans who are unemployed, so they can get by?”
But there’s one big campaign promise that continues to be particularly thorny: the dilemma of how quickly to reopen schools. As he was careful to note this afternoon, those decisions will ultimately be made at the state and local levels, but Biden has stood by a promise to safely reopen most schools nationwide within the first 100 days of his presidency — meaning by late April.
The administration has struggled to decide where to put its own goal posts on this issue. At a CNN town-hall-style event this week in Wisconsin, Biden affirmed that the goal was to have schools open five days a week, contradicting a statement by his press secretary, Jen Psaki, who had said that schools that held in-person classes at least one day a week by the spring would be counted as meeting the president’s goal.
But some experts remain skeptical about the feasibility of classrooms fully reopening by April without more concerted federal action to bring vaccines into schools. Many states have included teachers in the most highly prioritized category for vaccination, allowing them to receive shots immediately. Still, about as many states have not.
“I can’t set nationally who gets in line when, and first — that’s a decision the states make,” Biden said today in response to a reporter’s question, adding, “I think it’s critically important to get our kids back to school.”
Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, said that when considering the goal of reopening schools by mid-spring, she was baffled that the C.D.C. had not included teachers in its list of top prioritized people to receive the vaccine.