Biden promises accountability as COVID relief rolls out: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The concept of a president asking the American people to trust the government may not sound remarkable on its face.

But it was still striking to hear President Joe Biden seek to turn a famous Reaganism on its head Thursday night: “Put trust and faith in our government,” Biden said.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks on the anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 11, 2021.

The president also promised accountability for the new $1.9 trillion COVID response he begins explaining in earnest on Friday and through a series of high-profile events around the country next week.

“If it fails at any point, I will acknowledge that it failed. But it will not,” the president said.

That’s a bold promise from a president who got just about everything he wanted in the COVID package he’s now charged with both implementing and defending. The benchmarks he set around vaccination deadlines will also be useful in tracking promises as matched up against realities.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers his first prime time address as president from the East Room of the White House, March 11, 2021.

The president has been careful about balancing optimism with the uncertainties of the pandemic, as complicated by the willingness of officials and individuals to follow the advice of medical professionals who have not and will not always agree.

From here, Biden is calling for a quality he promised to bring to leadership: unity. It’s yet another benchmark the president is setting for himself — and, as with so much around the pandemic, there’s only so much public officials can do to achieve it.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

In his first prime-time address, Biden didn’t directly mention the Republicans who didn’t support the relief bill and instead spoke more broadly about the concept of unity.

“Getting back to normal depends on national unity. And national unity — it isn’t just how politicians vote in Washington, what the loudest voices say on cable or online,” he said. “Unity is what we do together as fellow Americans.”

He has oft made mention of his commitment to working across the aisle — and before taking office spoke idealistically of bipartisan unity among lawmakers post-Trump. So far, it hasn’t materialized.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers a nationally televised address to the nation on the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 11, 2021.

Despite input from Republicans and numerous concessions from Democrats, not a single Republican supported the relief package Biden celebrated in his address. It’s a fact not lost on progressives.

“The Democrats quite frankly negotiate themselves down from things that should have been in there and still didn’t get to support of the Republicans,” said a former adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The Rev. William Barber, leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, citing the fact that the $15 minimum wage didn’t make it into the package, said the work of raising Americans out of poverty remains unfinished: “Don’t ask us to overly celebrate a partial victory.”

If the president holds onto his romanticized view, it begs the question: If the parties can’t come to an agreement in the midst of a public health and economic crisis, how can they work together to tackle other Biden agenda items, especially with a 50-50 Senate and a slim margin in the House? That unwavering commitment to bipartisanship could also threaten to further expose rifts within the Democratic Party’s centrist and progressive wings.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The political drumbeat over sexual misconduct allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is growing louder, as the New York State Assembly announced their decision on Thursday to launch an impeachment investigation into the accusations. The move, which will not interfere with the ongoing probe being conducted by the state Attorney General’s Office, was directed after more than three dozen Democratic members of the lower house of the state legislature demanded for Cuomo to resign.

“The reports of accusations concerning the governor are serious. The committee will have the authority to interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence, as is allowed by the New York State Constitution,” Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement. As reported by ABC News’ Aaron Katersky, the decision also has a stalling effect on future impeachment proceedings by giving the assembly speaker control over the process, while also fending off calls for an immediate resolution to the ongoing controversy.

PHOTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at a vaccination site in New York, March 8, 2021.

The intraparty debate over the allegations is also extending beyond the borders of New York with Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer — another lauded, pandemic-era Democratic governor facing a 2022 political battle — weighing in on the allegations. During an interview with Politico Live, Whitmer, a survivor of sexual assault, maintained that the accusations need to be vetted and taken seriously while adding that she does not intend to “prejudge” the outcome of the investigation.

Asked to weigh in on whether she believes there is a party-based double standard for politicians who are faced with these types of allegations, Whitmer suggested that she does. “We just had a president who lasted all four years with numerous allegations against him — some so far as rape. No one on his own side of the aisle was making observations about whether or not he should stay in office, so is there a different standard? I guess one could conclude that but weighing in on that I don’t know if it gets either one of us very far,” she said.


ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Friday morning’s episode features ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce on President Joe Biden’s prime-time address and vaccination announcement. Then, Brown University’s Dean of Public Health Dr. Ashish Jha talks about a new study that shows Pfizer’s vaccine effectiveness against asymptomatic transmission of COVID. And, ABC News Investigative Reporter Aaron Katersky reports on the growing calls for embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign.

FiveThirtyEight’s Politics Podcast. The chaos surrounding the 2020 election meant one story would often supplant another before we fully had time to process anything. In this installment of the podcast, with the benefit of hindsight and some time to breathe, Galen Druke reflects on those kinds of key moments in the 2020 race with the authors of the new book, “Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won The Presidency.” The book is the first big reported account of the 2020 campaign in its entirety and is written by Jonathan Allen, senior political analyst with NBC News, and Amie Parnes, senior correspondent for The Hill.


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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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