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Cabinet secretaries sell Biden’s ambitious agenda across U.S.


WASHINGTON — Marty Walsh remembers what it was like when a Cabinet secretary would come to town.

“It really is a big deal. They give you the dates, and you just clear your schedule,” said Walsh, a former mayor of Boston.

He recalls 300 people packing into a room to hear Julián Castro, then Housing and Urban Development secretary. “He was speaking on behalf of President Obama and Vice President Biden, and people hung on every word.”

Now Walsh, as secretary of labor, is on the other side of the equation, crisscrossing the country on behalf of President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan. As the massive infrastructure package goes through torturous negotiations in Congress, Walsh and a handful of other Cabinet secretaries have launched an ambitious travel schedule to promote the plan and the larger Biden agenda.

“It’s clear the administration has decided to take their message on the road,” said Ravi Perry, head of the political science department at Howard University. “The amount of trips, how much they’ve traveled … there really has been a shift.”

Starting around the beginning of May, Biden’s Cabinet members have made dozens of TV appearances and trips around the country, promoting the Biden agenda with an ambitious roadshow.

“I don’t know that I can think of an equivalent to this kind of rollout,” said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, who in recent weeks has traveled to Newark, New Jersey; Kansas City, Missouri; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We are an extension of the administration. We are carrying the president’s agenda.”

The Cabinet outreach campaign is particularly striking in the context of the country’s gradual emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although restrictions on mass gatherings are being lifted all around the country, several Cabinet secretaries noted that the national mood is not quite ready for large political rallies.

“You’re not getting the crowds, of course,” said Walsh, who misses the intimacy of working lunches without social distancing restrictions. “It really restricts what you can do. You want to be around people.”

Much of the traveling has been done by Biden’s Jobs Cabinet: Walsh, Fudge, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.



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