One definition of recovery is “a return to a normal state of health, mind or strength.” Another is “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.” I can’t think of any more appropriate descriptions of the first 20 months of President Joe Biden’s administration. History records President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the creator of the New Deal, President Harry S. Truman as the initiator of the Fair Deal, and President Lyndon Johnson as the mastermind of the Great Society. I believe historians will one day recognize President Joseph R. Biden as the engineer of the Great Recovery.
When President Biden took office on Jan. 20, 2021, the country was in the grip of a global pandemic that was killing more than 3,000 people per day. Businesses were shuttering, schools were closing, and the nation’s unemployment rate was 6.4%. The American people were losing faith in their government and its elected officials.
The bombastic style of the previous administration was wearing thin on the American public and their lack of substance was visiting hardships on the American people, their families and their communities. Our nation’s long pursuit of “a more perfect Union” seemed to be coming to an unceremonious end. In short, our democracy was at peril.
President Biden and congressional Democrats are engineering a “Great Recovery” of, for and by the American people. From day one, we have focused on shoring up the shaky foundation left by the previous administration. On March 11, 2021, less than two months after he took office, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) putting in place the first pillar of the foundation upon which he would jump-start a great recovery. The ARP put money in people’s pockets, got children back in school and lifted nearly half of those children living in poverty out of poverty. We reopened businesses, kept workers on their jobs and stemmed the deadly rampage of COVID-19 by expanding testing and access to vaccines.
The second pillar of Biden’s foundation came on Nov. 15, 2021, when he signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Joe Biden’s historic investment in our crumbling and outdated infrastructure is putting people to work repairing roads and bridges, expanding high-speed broadband, cleaning our drinking water and creating a resilient electric grid. It is replacing lead pipes, making a down payment on clean energy transmission and erecting charging stations for electric vehicles. These infrastructure investments are creating jobs and strengthening critical links in our supply chain.
The third pillar of President Biden’s “Great Recovery” platform, the CHIPS and Science Act, was signed into law on August 9. It restores America’s standing as a global science and technology leader by providing the resources and tools to make more products like semiconductor chips here at home. It will create better-paying jobs, build a more diverse workforce and bolster our supply chains.
The fourth pillar of the Biden platform, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed the Congress with every Democrat voting for it, and every Republican voting against it. This new law is making historical investments in climate change and health care. Medicare recipients will see insulin capped at $35 per month, their out-of-pocket prescription drugs capped at $2,000 annually, allows Medicare costs to be negotiated, and extends Affordable Care Act subsidies to 13 million Americans.
To further secure and stabilize his platform, President Biden and Democrats constructed some additional, well-placed pillars — the PACT Act, the Safer Communities Act and student loan debt relief. The PACT Act expands health care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and Agent Orange. The Safer Communities Act is the first significant gun safety law enacted in 30 years. It invests in community-based violence prevention initiatives, closes the “boyfriend loophole,” creates a new criminal offense for straw purchases and trafficking, and requires enhanced background checks for gun purchasers under the age of 21.
President Biden recently announced up to $10,000 in student loan debt relief for those earning less than $125,000 and reduced future monthly payments for borrowers from 10% to 5% of their discretionary income. He also announced up to $20,000 in debt relief for Pell Grant recipients. In addition, the Biden administration reworked the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for public servants who are eligible and those who were among the 99% of loan applicants who were denied forgiveness under the previous administration. He extended the deadline for applicants to October 31, 2022. In the past 10 months, over 175,000 borrowers have received over $10 billion in debt relief.
President Biden and Democrats are putting people above politics. Throughout my travels, I proudly proclaim that thanks to President Biden, and a Democratic Congress, America is emerging from a very dark time in our history. President Biden is providing the strong, steady leadership needed to build a solid foundation upon which to launch a Great Recovery.
Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, has served as House majority whip since 2019.