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Connecticut representatives hope Biden can bridge divide

For Connecticut’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, President Joe Biden’s message of unity, delivered on his first day in office to a deeply divided nation and Congress that is still reeling from the attack on the nation’s Capitol, is the first of many efforts they hope will help heal the country.

Biden’s remarks were “pitch perfect,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, an “inspirational and therapeutic” speech as opposed to a policy address.

“He obviously talked about the recession and (COVID-19), but the real thrust of his remarks were trying to deal with the division in this country,” Courtney said in an interview after the inauguration.

Biden faces a monumental task in trying to unite the nation just weeks after a Pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol — an issue Courtney said he’s repeatedly asked about, including recently during a virtual town hall with high school students in Mansfield: “How do we get people to come together in this country?"

Many of Courtney's Republican colleagues in the House "have a desire to turn the page,” and he sees another round of coronavirus relief as "a good place to begin.”

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan Biden unveiled late last week will be his first major legislative push, as he assumes the presidency in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans and taken a toll on the U.S. economy.

The slow vaccine rollout in the U.S. provides “strong political momentum” in Congress to pass Biden's plan, Courtney said. Biden is proposing to spend $20 billion for a national vaccination program and has set a goal of administering 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office.

Biden is starting his presidency by signing 17 executive orders reversing many of the actions taken by the Trump administration over the past four years, including rejoining the Paris climate accord and reversing a travel ban on several majority-Muslim and African countries.

“Never has a new president broken so cleanly and significantly with a predecessor so early in an administration,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during a virtual news media call Wednesday. He said he hopes the Senate will move quickly to confirm Biden’s appointees to be treasury secretary, Pentagon chief and head of the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, said in a statement that he looks forward to working with the new administration to "tackle the COVID pandemic, provide relief to working families, strengthen Social Security, address our country's crumbling infrastructure and more."

"Our country is turning a corner and I'm excited to see what we can accomplish for the American people," Larson said.

The Biden-Harris administration “presents a new opportunity for America to pursue an agenda for the people, repair our international reputation, address systemic inequality, and close the chasms of political polarity that have been stoked and widened,” U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, said in a statement Wednesday.

Addressing the “historic implications” of Kamala Harris being the first Black and Indian American woman to become vice president, Hayes said Harris’ presence in the White House “provides an incalculable level of validation and empowerment to millions of Americans who have never seen someone who looks like them hold such power and responsibility.”

j.bergman@theday.com

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