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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Biden administration's top priority, after virus control, will be "building a fiscal bridge to the other side of the crisis." That's what Jared Bernstein, a senior Biden economic adviser, told an IIF conference this week.

Why it matters: Biden has a very large and complex Building Back Better agenda, which includes some 800 different policy proposals and will cost some $3 trillion. But before even getting started on that, the Biden team plans to spend a lot of money — probably north of $1 trillion — on a short-term stimulus package.

Between the lines: In the fight over a potential stimulus package, the Trump administration is refusing to funnel money to state and local government. By contrast, says Bernstein, that will be top of the list for a Biden economic stimulus, because it comes with a high "fiscal multiplier."

  • The Biden team is looking at "getting the biggest bang for the buck," says Bernstein. Giving money to state and local governments has a multiplier of about 1.5, according to the San Francisco Fed. In other words, every $1 given to those governments increases GDP by about $1.50.

Other priorities with high multipliers include nutritional support and expanded unemployment benefits.

The bottom line, per Bernstein: The "fiscal bridge" is going to be needed even if a new stimulus package is passed between now and January. So long as the economy is well below potential — which it will be — Biden will want up-front spending in January.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 16, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Using jobs to keep climate in spotlight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President-elect Biden's climate team plans to draw in agencies government-wide, and will emphasize racial justice and job creation in low-carbon industries.

  • But big climate and energy bills will face high hurdles in Congress. So much of Biden's agenda will rest on executive actions that are certain to face intense legal battles.

What they're saying: "When we think about climate change, we think jobs. We think good paying union jobs," Biden said when he unveiled his energy team last month.

  • Biden cited opportunities in areas such as renewable power, electric vehicles and charging, water infrastructure and more.
  • Biden often mentions environmental justice — addressing disproportionate pollution burdens that poor people and communities of color face.

Who watch: Biden’s team is tasked with breathing life into a platform that goes beyond anything contemplated in the Obama years. But executive actions will face legal challenges, and the legislative agenda is constrained by the narrowly divided Congress.

  • Gina McCarthy, the Obama-era EPA boss, will lead a new White House domestic climate policy office. She'll have to ensure that climate stays high on the agenda of a new administration consumed with the pandemic and the economy.
  • Deb Haaland, the nominee for Interior, will be at the helm of some of the most controversial parts of Biden’s energy and climate platform — including what remains a vague plan to thwart oil and gas permitting on federal lands.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.