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Tag: joe biden

Biden Says Plan Will Let US Be 'The Nation We Know We Can Be'

Washington (AFP) - President Joe Biden said Thursday he is confident Congress will pass a mammoth middle class spending plan that can "change the trajectory" of the United States.

In a speech at the White House, Biden said rebuilding the US economy in the wake of Covid-19 shutdowns is "an opportunity to be the nation we know we can be."

Making the case for some $3.5 trillion in spending on social services, like education, child care and climate crisis issues, Biden said "we're at an inflection point in this country -- one of those moments where the decisions we make can change the trajectory of our country for years or decades to come."

Biden also argued for a series of tax increases aimed at corporations and the very wealthy, saying that loopholes allow America's richest entities and individuals to end up paying almost no income tax.

"It's long overdue. I'm not out to punish anyone. I'm a capitalist… All I'm asking is you pay your fair share," he said. "It's about the super wealthy finally beginning to pay what they owe."

The Democrat is banking on this message of fairness to get him across the finish line in Congress, where his party holds a razor thin majority over a Republican opposition showing no desire to compromise.

The $3.5 trillion social spending package would come on top of an approximately $1 trillion infrastructure plan for things like roads and bridges.

Republicans have agreed to support that smaller bill -- an extremely rare case of bipartisanship that Biden also hopes to use as proof of his claims to have tried to unite the country.

Hammered at home and abroad over the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, where he ended America's lost 20-year war against the Taliban, Biden is keen to pivot to domestic issues and secure Democrats a major victory ahead of next year's congressional elections.

A big domestic win would also help resuscitate his presidency, which after a strong start looks bogged down by the Afghanistan fallout, a complicated economic recovery after Covid shutdowns, and a resurgence of the pandemic thanks to the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

With an average approval rating of 46 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight, Biden is one of the most unpopular presidents at this point in the first term in modern history -- even if he is way ahead of where Donald Trump was at the same mark with 38.8 percent approval.

Hard Bargaining

Biden says his "Build Back Better" plan will tilt the economy in favor of ordinary Americans after years of growing wealth gaps and a fraying of basic social services like education.

It's a message with broad appeal, but Democrats are squabbling over how far to push it, with many content with the $3.5 trillion price tag, leftist leaders wanting even more, and some moderates insisting on less than half.

With Democrats unable to afford losing a single vote in the 50-50 Senate and little more than that in the almost equally tight House of Representatives, Biden's entire agenda hangs in the balance.

The key Senate votes are Democratic moderates Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have cold feet about the higher price.

Under pressure from his party to become more personally involved, Biden met privately with both Sinema and Manchin at the White House on Wednesday.

The administration on Thursday also touted a letter of support signed by 15 Nobel economics prize winners who say his social spending plan will promote "success in the 21st century."

However, Republicans are playing hardball.

They not only refuse to countenance the multi-trillion-dollar package but sense a chance to deal the Biden presidency a severe blow ahead of next year's polls, when they hope to take control of Congress.

In addition to trying to block the big spending package -- while agreeing to the smaller, hugely popular infrastructure bill -- Republicans are threatening to cause havoc by blocking approval of an increase to the national debt.

For years this has been largely a technicality and Republicans agreed to relax borrowing restrictions repeatedly when Trump was president.

Refusing to vote for it in the coming weeks will force the Democrats to scramble to find ways to avoid a funding crisis that could trigger a US default and plunge the economy into turmoil.

Murdoch Media, GOP Fabricate Tale Of White House Cutting Biden’s Mic

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The Republican Party and two media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch pushed a false story about President Joe Biden that made its way into questioning of Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

During Blinken's appearance, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the ranking Republican on the committee, asked him about a video clip shared the day before by the Republican National Committee on both its RNC Research Twitter feed and GOP War Room YouTube account and picked up by Fox News and the New York Post.

On Monday, Biden met with federal and state fire officials to receive a briefing at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. The video clip shared by the RNC, which it titled "White House feed cuts out as Biden starts to ask a question," was taken from the White House feed of that meeting and shows the president asking a question, in the middle of which the feed ends.

The clip was included later that day in a story published by Fox News with the headline "White House abruptly cuts feed of Biden mid-sentence as he asks question at wildfires briefing."

The New York Post ran the story under the headline "White House livestream cuts Biden mid-sentence as he goes off script."

Risch told Blinken, "Look, we've all seen this, we saw it as recently as yesterday — somebody in the White House has authority to press the button and stop the president, cut off the president's speaking ability and sound. Who is that person?"

Laughing, Blinken responded, "I think anyone who knows the president, including members of this committee, knows that he speaks very clearly and very deliberately for himself. No one else does."

Risch persisted, asking, "Are you saying that there's no one in the White House that can cut him off, because yesterday that happened, and it's happened a number of times before then. It's been widely reported that somebody has the ability to push the button and cut off his sound and stop him from speaking. Who is that person?"

"There is no such person," Blinken replied.

After the exchange, having previously amplified the video from the Republican Party, Fox News then broadcast Risch's questioning of Blinken about it.

"It's come to the point, John, where senators are now asking about this in hearing rooms," noted host Sandra Smith on the program America Reports.

"It does seem to happen a lot," replied host John Roberts.

But the entire series of events, from the Republican Party to Fox News to the Senate hearing and back to Fox News, is based on the false premise that the video feed cutting off during an event involving the president is unusual.

In Biden's schedule from Monday the video feed of his briefing with federal and state fire agencies in Idaho is designated as "Out-of-Town Pool Spray at the Top."

That means that the video presented online and fed to television outlets was always intended to include only the comments from Biden and other officials made before the start of the event, not the entirety of the meeting.

"Translation of 'pool spray at top' -- reporters will hear some opening remarks and then leave as the president begins to engage in the briefing," noted Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler.

CNN fact checker Daniel Dale tweeted, "Prompted by a Republican National Committee tweet, right-wing media covered this like the White House was nervously censoring Biden as he went off script. In fact, as you've probably seen, it's entirely normal for the press to be ushered out/the cam to be shut off mid-meeting."

Observers noted the circularity of the entire episode: the Republican Party claiming that ordinary operations are somehow an example of a White House feeling the need to shield the president from his own words; right-wing outlets Fox News and the New York Post boosting the false claim; a Republican senator calling the false story "widely reported" and asking a Cabinet secretary to confirm it during a Senate hearing; and Fox then picking up the hearing as news.

Wrote Kessler, "It's especially dismaying that a senior senator like Risch would fall prey to such nonsense and waste valuable time on it during an important national security hearing."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Beltway Media Blame Biden For Vaccine Refusal, Ignore Fox Brainwashing

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Busy extending the list of "crises" that President Joe Biden must face, the Beltway media are busy adding Covid vaccinations as a looming failure for the Democrat, as the nation readies a national mandate for the inoculations.

By putting the onus on Biden for the millions of defiant Trump voters who refuse to take the free, safe, and effective shot even as their neighbors become sick and die around them, the press is boosting the GOP — and missing a huge story.

We're witnessing one of the great mass brainwashings in American political history, as millions of Fox News Covid zombies eagerly swallow an ocean of lies, distortions, and misinformation. Yet the press blames Biden for not being able to convince them otherwise. Worse, the press blames the president without ever acknowledging the large-scale brainwashing that is happening.

Uncomfortable with reporting on a conservative movement that has lost touch with reality, the Beltway media are much more comfortable treating the vaccine story as one about a Democratic president who's failing to properly communicate and persuade. And one who's being outmaneuvered by Republicans.

Incredibly, the Washington Post recently cited as a "political win" for the GOP the fact that "Republican governors in several states have also had success in undermining Biden's efforts to require masks for schoolchildren and others in an effort to limit Covid-19 spread."

In a headline that was later changed, the Associated Press claimed that with his mandate announcement last week Biden had declared "war on the unvaccinated."

The New York Times announced, "Delta's rise has been fueled in part by the inability of Mr. Biden and his administration to persuade millions of vaccine-refusing Americans to inoculate themselves against the virus," in a type of dispatch that has been repeated nonstop by news outlets in recent weeks.

Virtually every reporter is working from the same script: Covid is surging and deaths are up because of Biden's "inability" to persuade vaccine "skeptics." What the Times report never addressed, and virtually none of them ever do, is that the reason millions of Americans still won't get vaccinated is because there is a choreographed, deep-pocketed political and media campaign designed to make sure millions of people don't get vaccinated. Period.

The press wants us to believe this is all just happening, by chance. It's not. Biden is battling powerful forces that reject science and are committed to prolonging the pandemic. That's essential to understand our continued health crisis, yet the press refuses to address it. Holding vaccine dead enders responsible for their actions is just not something they want to do.

Following Biden's Covid address to the nation on Thursday, CNN's Jake Tapper not only deducted points for the president's supposed "scolding tone," but the CNN anchor suggested Trump voters should not be singled out for extending the deadly pandemic. By Tapper's telling, because Trump voters are being lied to about the vaccine by far-right players, it's the liars who are to blame — who are the "villains" — not the millions of people who willingly embrace the falsehoods.

Last month, the Times posted a seven-minute, narrated report about an Arkansas community in the Ozarks with a ridiculously low vaccination/high Covid rate. "Rhetoric on freedom and choice is dissuading people from getting the shot, at a terrible cost," the Times tweeted, while promoting the clip. But who was responsible for the rhetoric that was creating a"terrible cost"? The seven-minute Times report never mentioned Fox News and never addressed who was pumping out all the Covid lies. But the report did capture lots of Arkansas locals spouting virus untruths: "We're talking about an unproven, untested vaccine."

Eight months after the vaccine arrived we know millions of Trump voters won't take it. That's not the news, although it remains a simple story to tell — and to blame Biden. Instead, journalists ought to be telling the harder truths and fixating on the why, and specifically calling out the forces at play.

The Times' Arkansas report did acknowledge "misinformation certainly exists here," but that single sentence represented the entirety of the coverage of that topic. The report also never mentioned "Republican," and instead referenced "leaders" who have politicized the vaccine.

Just yesterday, the Times published a piece, "How Outrage Over Vaccine Mandates Became a Mainstream GOP Stance," and failed to reference Fox News, which has aired hysterical, non-stop attacks on the federal mandate since it was announced. Fact: That's how outrage over common-sense mandates became mainstreamed within the GOP. Also on Sunday, the Times produced, "The U.S. is Falling to the Lowest Vaccination Rates of the World's Wealthiest Democracies," which included not one sentence addressing the why.

More recently, CNN produced its own 10-minute video about another poorly vaccinated Ozarks community, in Carter County Missouri. CNN spent days interviewing locals who regurgitated anti-virus rhetoric: "I ain't takin' that shit." "There's not enough research on it." "I believe if the good Lord wants me right now it doesn't matter if I take a vaccine or if I don't."

CNN omitted all references to Fox News or the Republican Party, and other bad-faith actors who have brainwashed so many people into thinking the Covid vaccine is evil despite the fact that inoculations have been part of everyday American life for decades — school children all across the country are not allowed to attend classes without vaccines for measles, mumps and many other diseases.

As with the Times report, the CNN segment was exceedingly gracious while interviewing Trump voters as they spewed nonstop misinformation about the vaccine and prolonged the pandemic.

White Supremacist Arrested With Bayonet And Machete Outside DNC Building

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Capitol Police on Monday announced they arrested a 44-year-old Californian man outside the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in Washington, D.C., after he was found to be in possession of a machete and bayonet — both of which are illegal to possess in the District of Columbia.

Capitol Police pulled over Donald Craighead after noticing his vehicle did not have a license plate, but instead had a picture of an American flag where the license plate should be. It was then that they observed the bayonet and machete and subsequently arrested him for possession of prohibited weapons.

Craighead's car was decorated with white supremacist imagery — including a swastika — and he espoused white supremacist views as he responded to police officers.

This is the latest incident to occur near the Capitol following the January 6 insurrection, during which a mob of Donald Trump supporters violently broke into the building to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

In August, a man was arrested across the street from the Capitol after he threatened to blow up the building unless Biden resigned, parroting lies from Trump and other Republicans that the 2020 election was stolen.

The latest arrest comes as the Capitol and surrounding area are on high alert, with supporters of the insurrectionists arrested on January 6 planning a rally on September 18.

CNN reported that law enforcement officials are bracing for violence at the so-called "Justice for J6" rally, which is organized by former Trump campaign aide Matt Braynard.

The DNC headquarters is steps away from House office buildings on the Capitol complex.

The building was targeted on the day of the January 6 insurrection, as was the Republican National Committee's headquarters, which is even closer to the House-side office buildings. Police found pipe bombs near both buildings.

Police have still not found the suspect behind the placement of those explosive devices. The FBI released footage last week of someone they think is the person who planted the explosive devices.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

FBI Releases First Declassified 9/11 Document After Biden Order

By Aakriti Bhalla and Mark Hosenball

(Reuters) -The FBI has released a newly declassified document related to its investigation of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and allegations of Saudi government support for the hijackers, following an executive order by President Joe Biden.

The partially redacted 16-page document released by the FBI on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, detailed contacts between the hijackers and several Saudi officials, but it did not draw a definitive conclusion whether the government in Riyadh was complicit in the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

Earlier this month, Biden ordered the Department of Justice to review documents from the FBI's probe into the attacks for declassification and release.

Relatives of the victims have been pushing for years for more information about what the FBI discovered in its probe and have contended that the documents would show Saudi Arabian authorities supported the plot.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has long said it had no role in the attacks. The Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment sent out of hours late on Saturday.

A U.S. government commission in 2004 found no evidence that Saudi Arabia directly funded al Qaeda, the group given safe haven by the Taliban in Afghanistan at the time. It left open whether individual Saudi officials might have.

The families of roughly 2,500 of those killed in the attacks, and more than 20,000 people who suffered injuries, businesses and various insurers, have sued Saudi Arabia seeking billions of dollars.

In a statement issued on September 8, the embassy said Saudi Arabia has always advocated for transparency around the events of September 11, 2001, and welcomes the release by the United States of classified documents relating to the attacks.

"As past investigations have revealed, including the 9/11 Commission and the release of the so-called '28 Pages,' no evidence has ever emerged to indicate that the Saudi government or its officials had previous knowledge of the terrorist attack or were in any way involved," the embassy's statement said.

In a statement on behalf of the organization 9/11 Families United, Terry Strada, whose husband Tom was killed on September 11, said the document released by the FBI on Saturday put to bed any doubts about Saudi complicity in the attacks.

"Now the Saudis' secrets are exposed and it is well past time for the Kingdom to own up to its officials' roles in murdering thousands on American soil," the statement said.

Biden has taken a tougher stance with Saudi Arabia than his predecessor Donald Trump, criticizing the kingdom over its human rights record while releasing a U.S. intelligence report implicating the its de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in the 2018 killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The prince denies any involvement.

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Why Biden’s Approval Ratings Will Rise Again

When President Joe Biden announced his new plan to mandate vaccinations and additional strong measures to curtail the spreading coronavirus, he was refreshingly brisk and blunt. It was a speech that marked an important step toward restoration of American political sanity.

"My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We've made vaccinations free, safe and convenient," the president said. And then he sounded the bass note: "We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us."

Evidently the president now realizes that the great majority of this country's citizens — after enduring the lockdowns, wearing the masks, taking the shots — are frustrated and yearning for effective action against the pandemic and its human accomplices. They see no reason to tolerate collusion in the spread of a deadly disease that has killed hundreds of thousands and threatens to kill many more with surging variants. They are ready to crack down on the selfish, stupid minority who cannot be bothered to protect their neighbors or themselves.

Does that sound angry? Until now, most expressions of rage, not to mention violent threats and acts, have come from the opposite direction. Everyone has seen viral videos of outrageous misconduct and vile assaults from the opponents of masking and vaccination, encouraged by right-wing media outlets that confuse "freedom" with promiscuous infection. This week, millions watched a disgusting person intentionally cough on a woman and her daughter in a grocery store because they were masked. Happily, that person's employers at SAP watched it too, and fired her sorry ass.

Yes, Americans have seen enough of that literally sickening behavior. When Biden said, "our patience is wearing thin," he was putting it mildly. He knows, because recent polls have suggested that patience with him was beginning to diminish too.

While the chaotic U.S. departure from Afghanistan may have influenced the dip in Biden's approval ratings, his deeper problem was the raging wave of coronavirus infections and deaths brought on by the Delta variant. The high ratings he enjoyed since taking office owed much to his deliberate and determined offensive against the pandemic; when he was perceived to falter over the past few months, his numbers slipped. Meanwhile, public support has been rising for vaccine mandates and a tougher approach overall.

The trend first became obvious in California, as so many trends do. The recall campaign against Gov. Gavin Newsom, it should be emphasized, caught fire when he was caught flouting his own COVID-19 regulations at a fancy Napa restaurant. The latest surveys, however, show Newsom pulling ahead because of his own government's vaccination mandates — and because he has rightly warned against the "anti-vax Republican government" that would take over if voters boot him. He has saved his political career by putting vaccine mandates at the center of his administration. If the election were held today, he would likely win by as much as 20 percent, perhaps more.

Even before Biden announced his own new suite of policies, the vaccination rate was steadily increasing again, largely thanks to public and private sector mandates that have gained traction since early summer. By overwhelming majorities, the public approves of those requirements at work and at school — and the result is that vaccine hesitancy has been steadily diminishing, with polls showing resistance at its lowest level since the question was first asked.

The most bracing moment in Biden's speech came when he informed the governors of Texas and Florida, and any others who might follow them, that his administration will financially and legally bolster any school district they attempt to intimidate from protecting teachers and students. In that instant, he confronted the toxic bullying by Republicans who want to prolong the pandemic for partisan gain — and showed who is tougher.

What Americans want from their leaders is usually simple enough. They want compassion, common sense, decency, and above all strength of conviction. In a word, they want the kind of leadership that Biden is providing. His numbers will soon rise again as the infection numbers fall.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Bold Biden Enrages The Right’s Pro-COVID Propagandists

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

President Joe Biden's announcement that federal regulators will seek to compel businesses with more than 100 employees to require their employees to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested for the virus weekly isn't the ideal solution to the pandemic. But the right-wing echo chamber sabotaged the ideal solution a long time ago.

In a better world, safe, effective vaccines developed under a Republican administration and distributed under a Democratic one would not have become a partisan issue. Politicians from both parties would have worked together to vaccinate communities as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Right-wing, mainstream, and left-wing news outlets would all have pursued whatever messages they deemed most effective in getting their audiences to take life-saving shots. High vaccine uptake would have sent COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths plummeting.

But that's not what happened.

Instead, as Biden made the vaccination campaign a central focus, Fox News hosts decided that their network's self-declared role as Biden's "opposition" did not have a carveout for his effort to vaccinate the public and halt the deadly pandemic. They and many of their right-wing media colleagues decided that their interests lay in fueling skepticism toward the vaccines and undermining the vaccination campaign.

Since Biden took office, right-wing propagandists have falsely suggested that the vaccines are ineffective or unnecessary and that they might be killing thousands of Americans. They have lashed out against the prospects of vaccine mandates, whether imposed by private businesses, universities, or government agencies. They have wailed about requirements for proof of vaccination to enter certain venues.They have raised up vaccine refusers as culture war heroes. And they have denounced door-to-door campaigns to urge residents to get vaccinated as akin to the tactics of the Gestapo.

What if Fox News actually cared about you? www.youtube.com

With the Republican base so firmly ensconced within the right-wing media echo chamber, it was inevitable that these sentiments would spread to the party's political leaders. GOP members of Congress waged misinformation campaigns about the vaccines and denounced the vaccination effort. Republican governors who see themselves as potential presidential candidates fought to prevent businesses, schools, and even cruise ships from requiring proof of vaccination. Meanwhile more responsible party politicians just threw up their hands over why their voters weren't getting shots.

The situation is reminiscent of 2009, when Republicans and right-wing media realized that they could foil President Barack Obama's promise of unity simply by withholding their support for anything he tried to do. But this time, the stakes are bigger than whether a president is viewed as divisive.

You can see the results of the right-wing effort to politicize vaccination all around you. Polls routinely show that Republicans are less likely to say they have been or will be vaccinated. As the Delta wave crested in recent weeks, with hospitals strained to capacity and daily recorded COVID-19 death totals again exceeding 1,500, it's been clear that those claims are neither idle nor irrelevant. As The Washington Post's Philip Bump detailed, state vaccination rates are closely correlated with 2020 vote margins, with increased support for former President Donald Trump consistent with lower vaccination rates. Higher COVID-19 cases, hospitalization, and deaths during this wave are also all correlated with Trump votes.

Republican leaders and right-wing media outlets convinced their supporters not to get vaccinated, and it's killing them and threatening the vaccinated. The powerful hold they have on their supporters has stymied the Biden administration's messaging and policy efforts at cajoling them into voluntary vaccination. The remaining options were to give up and accept that the right-wing vaccine disinformation campaign will keep killing Americans, or try to sidestep that propaganda machine with vaccine and testing requirements. Biden chose the latter.

But the forces that have worked so hard to limit vaccine uptake aren't taking this lying down.

Republican governors are promising to sue the federal government over the vaccine mandates. Ambitious GOP politicians are trying to win primary fights with overheated calls for civil disobedience.

And Fox's propagandists are furious, and they will surely expend far more effort trying to make their viewers angry about vaccine mandates than they ever did to try to cajole them to get shots.

All they had to do was show as much interest in life-saving vaccines as they did in hydroxychloroquine. But they were too devoted to opposing Biden to look out for their audience, and now here we are.

Attacking Anti-V​​accine Obstruction, Biden Mandates Widespread COVID Shots

By Jeff Mason, Ahmed Aboulenein and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden took aim on Thursday at vaccine resistance in America, announcing policies requiring most federal employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and pushing large employers to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly.

The new measures, which Biden laid out in remarks from the White House, would apply to about two-thirds of all U.S. employees, those who work for businesses with more than 100 workers.

"We've been patient," Biden told the tens of millions of Americans who have declined to get coronavirus shots. "But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us."

Taken together, the policies and speech represented Biden's most aggressive steps yet to prod Americans resistant to getting shots as the fast-spreading Delta variant sparks a new wave of sickness and death.

The surge has posed increased risk not just to the country but to a president who ran on promises to get control of the pandemic. Biden's approval ratings have sagged since he said in July the United States was "closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus."

Biden's latest moves are expected to be the subject of political and legal challenges.

Despite a full-throttled campaign by the Biden administration urging Americans to get the free and widely available vaccines, just over 62 percent of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thursday, Biden warned that "we're in a tough stretch and it could last for a while."

Infectious disease and health policy experts said the mandates are unlikely to significantly change infection rates quickly.

Still, they would help against potential future waves of the virus, reducing deaths and hospitalizations and alleviating the stress on the healthcare system, said Georgetown University's Dr. Jesse Goodman, a former chief scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"It's absolutely the right thing to do," he said. "Ideally everyone would have been vaccinated already."

'Fear, Control, And Mandates'

In a televised speech running a bit under half an hour, the Democratic president accused "a distinct minority of elected officials" who have resisted mask and vaccine mandates on freedom-of-choice and economic grounds as "making people sick."

The White House COVID-19 recovery plan was based on the vast majority of eligible Americans being vaccinated this year. But the public health issue has become politicized, with a vocal minority refusing the shots and mask mandates.

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order in July blocking mask mandates in schools.

Administration medical officials have said over 97 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated, and those people account for an even higher share of deaths.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives committee that oversees health policy, said Biden "is using fear, control, and mandates."

The Republican National Committee said it intends to sue the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate.

Under Biden's plan, the administration will also require vaccinations for more than 17 million healthcare workers at hospitals and other institutions that participate in Medicare and Medicaid social programs for poor, disabled and older Americans.

Biden previously required that federal employees be vaccinated or get tested. Federal workers now have 75 days to get vaccinated, or face termination unless they fall into limited exemption categories.

Federal workers unions suggested on Thursday they would accept the vaccine mandate.

Substantial Fines

The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to take enforcement actions against private companies that do not comply with the vaccine mandate, with substantial fines of nearly $14,000 per violation.

The administration is also calling on entertainment venues to require tests or shots and for states to adopt mandates for school employees. It is also multiplying the fines https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-doubling-fines... charged to people who fail to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses.

It plans as well to ramp up testing capacity for the virus.

Biden will use authority under the Defense Production Act to spur industry to accelerate production of the tests, and big retailers including Walmart Inc , Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> and Kroger Co are expected to sell the tests at cost for the next three months to make them more affordable.

Critics have said the Biden administration has not done enough on testing during its seven months in office. Still, the new demand for tests could tax already strained suppliers.

Administration officials believe the full recovery of the U.S economy depends on blunting the spread of the virus, the key focus of the president since entering office in January.

The disease has killed more than 654,000 people in the United States, and deaths and hospitalizations have been rising sharply as the easily transmissible Delta variant of the virus spreads.

The spread of the Delta variant has raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors, upending company return-to-office plans and tamping down hiring.

The White House also plans to offer booster shots providing additional protection to those who are fully vaccinated. But supplies are limited and the World Health Organization has begged rich countries to pause booster programs until more people worldwide are inoculated.

But with Delta causing more symptomatic breakthrough infections among fully inoculated individuals, most vaccinated Americans want a booster, a recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found. Boosters could begin the week of September 20.

"Get vaccinated," Biden urged in closing his speech.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Ahmed Aboulenein and Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Steve Holland, David Shepardson and Susan Heavey; Writing by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)