Updated Jul 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden says John Lewis asked him to "heal the country"

Joe Biden gives a speech in Delaware

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Joe Biden summoned the spirit of John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights hero, as he unveiled his own economic plan to address structural inequalities in America.

The big picture: At a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said Lewis told him on his deathbed that Americans should "stay focused on the work left undone to heal this nation and to remain undaunted by the public health crisis and economic crisis."

  • Biden unveiled the fourth pillar of his plan to "Build Back Better," focusing on racial disparities in wealth and health.
  • "It’s a bold, practical plan that is going to help build a stronger and more just and sustainable economy for everybody,” Biden said.
  • “It’s also about jobs. Good paying jobs. Financial stability and building wealth for families of color."

Behind the numbers: In the fourth and final installment of his economic program, Biden spelled out how to specifically allocate for communities of color some of the money that he's previously announced.

  • He would set aside $30 billion of the $300 billion he announced in his first pillar for innovation funding for small businesses.
  • The goal is to leverage the $30 billion to make more than $150 billion available.
  • Beyond the $150 billion for small businesses, additional federal funds would benefit communities of color, but the Biden campaign hasn't specified how much of the multitrillion-dollar plan would be directed toward those groups.

Between the lines: Biden did not use the address to announce new top-line spending plans. Rather, he detailed what portions of his plan will be dedicated toward racial equality, using a mix of new and old programs and tax credits.

  • Biden didn't explain how he'll pay for his economic program, though he (and campaign officials) have said parts of it will be covered by repealing the Trump tax cuts, while other parts will be considered stimulus spending.
  • Campaign officials haven't put a total price tag on Biden's spending ambitions, but the first three planks are likely to cost well north of $3 trillion.
  • His first plank included some $700 billion to create 5 million jobs, the second detailed roughly $2 trillion for climate-friendly infrastructure, and the third promised $775 billion for caregiver and education jobs.

The big picture: After Biden rolls out his economic agenda, attention will turn to his choice to serve as his vice president.

  • In a Q&A with reporters, Biden said that he'll announce his running mate "the first week in August."
  • "I promise, I’ll let you know when I do," Biden joked with reporters.

Why it matters: Carefully crafted policy plans are clues to how a candidate will govern. But July's policy pronouncements aren't exactly set in stone. Biden is leaving himself enough flexibility to adapt to the economic effects of COVID-19 and go either bigger or smaller.

  • The final plank in his economic platform, like his other three, borrows heavily from many of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, as Biden looks to aggregate the best ideas in his party, as the country faces an uncertain economic future.

Be smart: Campaign battle plans rarely survive first contact with Congress, regardless of who controls one or both chambers. Ask former President Obama how much bigger he thought his 2009 $787 billion plan should have been.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include highlights from Biden's speech.

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