The half-day forum at the White House will focus on the ground-level impacts of the American Rescue Plan and bipartisan infrastructure law in a critical battleground state
Elected leaders from across the commonwealth will convene at the White House this morning for the latest installment in an ongoing series of meetings aimed at “shining a spotlight” on the ground-level impacts of the Biden administration’s post-pandemic recovery efforts.
Mayors from Aliquippa, Beaver County; Allentown, Gettysburg, and Scranton are confirmed attendees at the White House’s “Communities in Action: Building a Better America,” forum series.
Elected county commissioners from all four of Philadelphia’s suburban collar counties and Centre County, as well as state Reps. Danilo Burgos, Jordan Harris, and Malcolm Kenyatta, all Philadelphia Democrats, also are scheduled to attend, according to the White House.
In a brief interview on Wednesday, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the director of the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, told the Capital-Star that the administration had made a deliberate effort to obtain the perspective of leaders outside the state’s largest cities.
“We tried to get a good cross-section of the state and throughout the different regions,” she said. “These are folks that we’ve been working with over the last 19 months as we’ve been implementing the American Rescue Plan and the [Bipartisan] Infrastructure Law.”
The White House has so far held three such fora, with the goal of meeting with leaders of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and tribal leaders. Labor, higher education and community leaders also are slated to take part in the events, according to the White House.
“It’s an opportunity for the White House to shine a spotlight on the really important work that leaders across Pennsylvania are doing to rebuild the economy and to, as we like to say, build Pennsylvania back better,” Chavez Rodriuguez said.
That effort has extended past the walls of the White House.
For much of the year, President Joe Biden’s Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have held a series of press and public events to tout the home state benefits of the Infrastructure Law, the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, and other administration initiatives.
In early August, for instance, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., joined by Democratic lawmakers and advocates, rallied on the state Capitol steps to tout the prescription drug benefits in the Inflation Reduction Act.
“So many people told us we couldn’t get it done on prescription drug costs for seniors,” Casey said, referring to language in the laboriously negotiated bill allowing Medicare to negotiate the prices of some prescription medication while capping out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries to $2,000 a year.
In July, U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, and other prominent Democrats, including Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, held a press call to punch up the benefits of hundreds of millions of dollars in small business assistance headed to the states thanks to the American Rescue Plan.
By law, the White House is forbidden from coordinating with outside groups on these events. But the cumulative effect of the messaging campaign — both directly and indirectly — is impossible to overlook.
With Pennsylvania one of a handful of states that will help determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill, and just as importantly, in the fight for control of governor’s mansions, these events seek to put the administration’s record in the best possible light as the clock ticks down to Election Day on Nov. 8
In a telephone interview, Kenyatta told the Capital-Star that he’s hoping to use the forum to both lift up the administration’s achievements to date, but also to discuss the work that has yet to be completed.
The Philadelphia lawmaker pointed to this week’s deadly shooting at Roxborough High School in the city that left a 14-year-old boy dead and four others wounded.
“We need to continue to talk about the work we need to do on gun safety and the progress from the [Bipartisan] Safer Communities Act,” which imposed reforms and provided money to states to help fight gun violence. “It’s critical that we’re talking about something that’s taking place across the commonwealth.”
While the Inflation Reduction Act funnels billions of dollars into fighting climate change, Kenyatta also stressed the need to keep the focus on matters of climate justice since poor, Black, and brown communities bear the undue burden of climate change.
For Democrats, today’s event at the White House, and the events put on by the president’s surrogates miles away from Washington D.C., is an opportunity to remind voters of what’s at stake in the Nov. 8 midterms, Kenyatta offered.
“People need to know what we’ve done and what we can build on,” with the U.S. House and Senate remaining in Democratic hands. That includes, he said, passing the long-sought John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“There is a very real contrast,” Kenyatta said. “And as much as I care about what gets signed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I care about its impact at 16th Street and Susquehanna Avenue in my district.”