Free beer! Biden, Cabinet celebrating freedom from COVID-19

White House fans out officials to plug vaccines, infrastructure

President Joe Biden ate an ice cream cone while visiting the Pearl Ice Cream Parlor & Confectionery in La Crosse, Wis., on Tuesday. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden ate an ice cream cone while visiting the Pearl Ice Cream Parlor & Confectionery in La Crosse, Wis., on Tuesday. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Posted June 30, 2021 at 4:14pm

Free ice cream, beer and Biden administration officials galore.

It’s all part of a full-court press by the White House and Democrats more broadly to promote COVID-19 vaccinations, the reopening of America and President Joe Biden’s pending infrastructure deal heading into the holiday weekend. And it will not be stopped by any new coronavirus variants.

“We know that our vaccines that have been approved in the United States are effective in protecting Americans from the delta variant; it’s important for people to understand that. So if you’ve been vaccinated, the message we’re conveying is you’re safe,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “These vaccines are effective, and that is something we want to be very clear with the public about. Certainly, it’s up to individuals — if you are not yet vaccinated, you are not safe and protected. That’s why you should go get vaccinated.”

But with pandemic restrictions basically in the rearview mirror in the United States regardless of news about the spread of the delta variant, particularly among the unvaccinated, the administration is back on the road to promote the president’s initiatives.

Tuesday’s presidential trip to the Badger State included a stop for ice cream in La Crosse, and in a rather on-brand move, the Democratic National Committee said it was getting into that game as well, launching an “America’s Back Mobile” that will be popping up to offer scoops of Jeni’s ice cream in locales near the East Coast. That’s in connection with an “America’s Coming Back” ad campaign, a one-minute spot that has generated local TV and newspaper headlines across the country.

Of course, the fact remains that all the positive news deserves to be tempered somewhat by COVID-19 vaccination rates likely to miss the president’s target of 70 percent of U.S. adults being at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day. Vaccination rates among younger adults have lagged, and federal, state and local officials have not seemed to find the right mix of incentives to convince many in that population group of the value of the vaccines.

Still, Anheuser-Busch InBev said Wednesday that the Budweiser producer will unlock its free beer promotion in conjunction with the Biden administration to celebrate progress in getting people vaccinated against COVID-19, regardless of whether the 70 percent mark is hit.

“While the country is still working to achieve that milestone, in line with the White House’s encouragement to be back together again this weekend in celebration of our progress as a nation, the company is making good on its promise to reward the country for its vaccination progress by giving consumers ‘a round on us’ this holiday weekend,” the beverage company said.

At the White House, the president will be joined by first lady Jill Biden and military families and other essential workers for a previously announced July Fourth barbecue on the South Lawn, and the National Mall is going to be open for revelers. On Thursday, the president is starting the long weekend in Traverse City, Mich., while the first lady has a trip to Maine and New Hampshire on the agenda and Vice President Kamala Harris’ schedule includes a stop in Las Vegas.

Many of these venues are in swing states, a hallmark of presidential travel. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said on Tuesday, “The president and his administration are going to make Wisconsin a regular stop.” Biden won Wisconsin in 2020 with 49 percent of the vote, less than 1 percent over Donald Trump.

Not all the administration travel will be to states that Biden won.

The first lady went to Texas on Tuesday, appearing at a Dallas COVID-19 vaccination clinic with Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, a former Dallas Cowboys running back.

“In the sports sense, we’re in the fourth quarter and the game is not finished,” Smith said at the event. 

The first lady then went to Houston, joining with second gentleman Doug Emhoff touring a vaccination clinic hosted by the Astros Major League Baseball club at Minute Maid Park. They stuck around to watch the Astros play the Baltimore Orioles before departing to Phoenix to make the rounds in Arizona.

A White House official said that more than a dozen states and territories and the District of Columbia will get visits from members of the Cabinet and other top officials.

Infrastructure plans also a hot topic

Aside from vaccination promotions, there’s sure to be plenty more discussion about the president’s deal-making with a group of Republican senators that would provide $579 billion in new spending over five years.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and other Democrats for stops Monday and Tuesday at the new Moynihan Train Hall in Manhattan and along the Interstate 81 corridor in Syracuse, N.Y., to promote the benefits of the agreement with a group of Senate Republicans on a nearly trillion-dollar infrastructure framework.

While the transportation secretary was in upstate New York, the president himself was in Wisconsin, also seeking to rally support for his infrastructure plan at a La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility facility.

“We’re not just tinkering around the edges here. We’re going to invest $66 billion in rail to eliminate backlogs, bring world-class rail service to areas outside the Northeast,” Biden said Tuesday after highlighting his well-documented experience with Amtrak between Washington and Wilmington, Del.

Psaki said Wednesday that the president would continue to advocate both for components of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement and other components that were not favored by Republican senators involved in that pact — funding that seems destined for a Democratic-only budget reconciliation bill.

“What the president will continue to advocate for aggressively in the reconciliation package are key priorities that were left out of the bipartisan package, including rebates for electric vehicles ... clean energy tax credits and the components of his American Families Plan, including an extension of the child tax credit, universal pre-K, ensuring community college is a real option,” Psaki said. “Those are all components of what the president will aggressively and ambitiously advocate for.”