President Joe Biden could have marked his 100th day in office just about anywhere, but he chose to celebrate in Georgia, alongside two of his favorite Georgians, Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
Their runoff victories in January helped secure a narrow Democratic majority in Congress, without which Biden would have had a much more difficult time passing elements of his agenda.
“We owe special thanks to the people of Georgia,” Biden said at a drive-in rally at Duluth’s Infinite Energy Center Thursday. “Because of you, because of your two senators, the rest of America was able to get the help they got so far. The American Rescue Plan would not have passed. So much that we’ve gotten done, like getting checks to people probably would not have happened. So if you ever wonder if elections make a difference, just remember what you did here, Georgia.”
Much of Biden’s roughly 20-minute speech echoed parts of his address to a joint session of Congress the night before, touting his achievements so far and describing his vision for the next part of his term.
Regarding the latter, the president pitched two massive spending plans, starting with a $2.3 trillion infrastructure overhaul called the American Jobs Plan, which he called the biggest jobs plan in the country since World War II.
Biden said his plan will help replace roads, bridges and airports as well as remove outdated and dangerous lead water pipes.
The second piece of Biden’s plan, which the White House unveiled Wednesday, would provide money for universal pre-K, two years of free community college and capping the costs of child care.
“We not only have to invest in America, we need to invest in our families, we need to invest in things our families care about and need the most,” Biden said.
About 60% of Georgia’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in lottery-funded state-run pre-K in 2020, putting Georgia at 8th place nationally for access for 4-year-olds, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
But while Georgia’s pre-K program is a model for other states in many ways, not every eligible child has been able to participate, said Mindy Binderman, executive director of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students.
“We know that there are somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 4-year-olds that have been on a waiting list consistently for the last few years in Georgia,” she said. “So our hope is, first and foremost, that we would continue to work to cover all 4-year-olds whose families want them enrolled in pre-K.”
Biden’s plan calls for expanding access to 3-year-olds, who are not now eligible for state-run preschool in Georgia. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia offer state-funded preschool for 3-year-olds.
The plan also calls for a sliding scale payment system for childcare, which would max out at 7% of income for low- and middle-income families, the White House says.
In Atlanta, some parents report paying up to 40% of their income on child care, Binderman said.
Georgia has a child care subsidy program, which is funded by a federal block grant and available to families who are at or below 85% of the state median income – about $64,700 for a family of four in Georgia. If Biden’s plan makes it through Congress, it would extend that to families making 150% of the state median income, about $114,000 for a family of four in Georgia.
Families in that range would pay no more than 7% of their income for child care.
Biden said he will pay for his plan with a tax on top earners and renewed his pledge not to raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year.
Biden’s visit to Georgia included an earlier stop in Plains with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to visit with former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter.
Biden came to town to thank Georgians for voting blue in the last elections, but he’s also thinking ahead to the next election, said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.
Warnock is up for re-election next November, and if he is defeated, Biden will likely have to say goodbye to his majority.
“Warnock is the biggest target,” Bullock said. “He’s one of only two statewide Democrats in office, and the other one doesn’t have to face the electorate for six years. Democrats want to reelect Warnock. Beyond that, they can hope for the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and other positions, but if they lose Warnock, it may be not back to zero, but they’ll certainly have been knocked back on their heels quite a bit.”
Biden faced a mostly friendly crowd, though his speech was briefly interrupted by a group of demonstrators shouting “end detentions now” and “abolish ICE.”
“I agree with you. I’m working on it, man, give me another five days,” Biden said.
Biden signed an executive order phasing out private prisons, but it does not extend to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Rather than criticizing Biden’s proposals, Georgia Republicans focused on tying him to Major League Baseball’s decision to move its All-Star game out of Georgia following the passage of the state’s controversial election law.
“Joe Biden’s first 100 days have been nothing short of disastrous for the Peach State,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Savannah Viar. “He lied about our latest election integrity law and bullied various organizations to boycott the state — taking away millions of dollars from small businesses in Georgia. Between Joe Biden, Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams, Georgians deserve better than this failed Democrat leadership.”
Biden briefly addressed the voting law during his remarks.
“You’ve seen what’s happened here in Georgia with your state’s laws. It’s just wrong,” he said. “And it’s why we have to pass the voting rights protection laws coming through the Congress right now, HR 1, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, both should be passed now.”