WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden plans to propose a steep funding increase for police, hoping to show that Democrats are serious about combating violent crime, despite the move potentially causing backlash from top members of his party’s left flank.
But a scheduled trip to Pennsylvania to ask Congress to spend roughly $37 billion for fighting and preventing crime was canceled Thursday when Biden tested positive for COVID-19.
His proposal is set to include $13 billion to help communities hire and train 100,000 police officers over five years. Biden was going to outline it during a visit to Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania until White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced he was experiencing “very mild symptoms” after the positive result.
Instead, the president spoke by phone with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., as well as Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown and Paige Cognetti, mayor of nearby Scranton, the White House said. Biden discussed his crime plan and expressed “his disappointment that he was unable to travel to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre this afternoon.”
Casey tweeted after his call with Biden that the president “sounded great and is in good spirits” and said he was “looking forward to welcoming him back” to Pennsylvania soon.
The White House also canceled Biden’s scheduled Philadelphia trip for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on Thursday night and plans for him to spend the weekend at his home in Delaware.
Biden, 79, is fully vaccinated, after getting two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shortly before taking office, a first booster shot in September and an additional dose in March.
Biden contracting the coronavirus means he won’t, at least for now, travel to publicly request additional funding for crime fighting initiatives. He had planned to seek the money as part of his latest budget proposal, according to senior administration officials who previewed the plan.
Republicans are trying to gain leverage in November’s midterm elections by portraying Democrats as unwilling to confront crime rates that have risen in some parts of the country.
Some top moderate Democrats facing tough reelection fights have called for additional funding to fight crime. But the White House-led effort could also spark a political fight with progressives, who have pushed for major policing reforms but seen those, and other of its top priorities on combating climate change and dramatically increasing social spending, fail to clear Congress.
As part of Biden’s plans, $3 billion would be geared toward clearing court backlogs and resolving cases involving murders and guns. The president also wants to use $15 billion to create a grant program that would fund ideas for preventing violent crime or creating a public health response to nonviolence incidents, aimed at reducing the burden on law enforcement.
Another $5 billion would support programs intended to stop violence before it occurs.