WASHINGTON – In 2009, then-Vice President Joe Biden was "Sheriff Joe,” the enforcer making sure federal dollars from a massive economic aid package were getting to the right places and quickly.
This time, President Biden’s role is different: He's lead salesman for the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package, eager to score political points as Americans begin to reap benefits from the massive government relief effort.
Biden signed the bill into law Thursday and then extolled it in a prime-time address to the nation that night. On Friday, he celebrated the package again, this time with Democratic lawmakers in his first Rose Garden event as president.
Biden said Friday that he would draw on his experiences in 2009, saying he worked four to five hours daily for six months to ensure that the stimulus succeeded. That same type of focus will be needed for coronavirus relief.
"The devil is in the details," the president said. “It’s one thing to pass the American Rescue Plan. It’s going to be another thing to implement it. It’s going to require fastidious oversight to make sure there’s no waste or fraud and the law does what it’s designed to do. And I mean it. We have to get this right.”
The White House has plotted an ambitious campaign to showcase the law's contents while looking to build momentum for future, more difficult parts of the president’s sweeping agenda. Biden will travel to the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Georgia next week to talk it up and other top administration officials will fan out around the country to do likewise.
West Wing aides say there is a determination to avoid the mistakes of more than a decade earlier, when President Barack Obama’s administration didn't do enough to promote its own economic recovery plan. But Biden gets a measure of credit for the successful implementation of the plan itself, according to veterans of the Obama administration.
Biden wound up with oversight of the government’s mammoth $787 billion stimulus plan after he wrote Obama a memo about how it should be run, and he savored his role as the program’s top cop. He said he had not “yet” looked at his vice president, Kamala Harris, to play the same role on COVID-19 aid.