It took two months and a deadly attempted coup against the United States in our nation's capitol building for Tennessee Gov. Bill to finally acknowledge that Joe Biden would indeed be the 46th president of the United States.
Now 50 days into Biden's term, Tennessee's 50th Governor still hasn't warmed up to our nation's duly elected commander-in-chief. In a strange argument on Thursday, Lee said that the president's American Rescue Plan was both too big and didn't give Tennessee enough money. He both argued that Tennessee was fiscally sound and didn't need the money, but deserved even more money than we got.
It's a public policy position that Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, would appreciate. Wicker, like every other Republican in Congress, opposed the bill, but still tweeted his support of the plan's $29 billion in direct relief to restaurants.
When I ran for Congress in Tennessee this past year, conservative restaurant owners were the most vocal to me about the need for government aid to keep their business afloat. The government told these businesses to shut down, so the government should foot the bill. This new grant money can help places like the venerable City Cafe in my hometown of Murfreesboro—Tennessee's oldest restaurant—stay afloat during these tough times.
Lee's overheated criticism of Biden isn't changing the minds of the faithful in his own party. The majority of Republicans support Biden's $1.9 trillion dollar package. But this isn't Lee's only unwarranted criticism of Biden. In February, Lee made national news by suggesting that Biden would help "destroy" women's sports by signing a new executive order attempting to protect transgender athletes.
Lee's distractions with these petty fights with the new Administration have taken away his focus on Tennessee's anemic vaccine rollout. Though the governor declared this week that Tennessee's "open for business," he's failed to both keep the virus under control and speed up the pace on getting shots into arms. Tennessee currently has the 5th highest infection rate in the country, while only having the 44th highest percentage of vaccines administered to date.
Here's the good news for Gov. Lee and every Tennessean—help is on the way. On the night of his election, Joe Biden promised that while "I'm a proud Democrat, I'll govern as an American president. I'll work as hard for those who didn't vote for me as those who did." He's fulfilling that promise.
In December, then President-elect Biden promised 100 million shots would be administered in his first 100 days in office. That'll now be achieved in 60 days. President Biden promised last week that the $1400 stimulus checks that'll be given to 90% of Tennesseans would begin going out at the end of the month. Yesterday, his Administration said the process would now begin this weekend.
But of particular importance is Joe Biden's commitment to getting this vaccine distributed in rural Tennessee. I experienced in the flesh in some of the most rural and conservative areas of this state and nation the high degree of vaccine skepticism in rural Tennessee.
The Biden Administration believes the best way to alleviate this problem is by increasing the supply in private pharmacies, grocery stores, and medical centers in rural areas. And this week, they took a huge step in that direction by announcing they would secure the supply for every American adult to sign up for the vaccine by May 1.
Joe Biden and Bill Lee both took an oath on the Bible before God and country to defend the Constitution and protect the welfare of the people of Tennessee and America. Joe Biden's fulfilling that sacred oath. Bill Lee should join him to ensure the well-being and security of our posterity during these difficult, but slowly improving times.
Christopher Hale was the 2020 Democratic nominee to the United States Congress from Tennessee's 4th congressional district and a Joe Biden delegate at last year's Democratic National Convention. He's from Murfreesboro.