By Molly Nagle, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden will hold his first Cabinet meeting Thursday afternoon at the White House, one day after announcing his massive infrastructure plan, which is expected to be a major topic of conversation for the first in-person session.
The 25 people in the meeting will include the 15 confirmed head of departments, plus Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, since Biden’s initial choice for the role, Neera Tanden, withdrew her nomination due to opposition in the Senate.
Vice President Kamala Harris and White House chief of staff Ron Klain, both members of the Cabinet, will also be in attendance, along with some other senior White House staff, according to the White House.
The meeting will look different than previous ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of taking place in the Cabinet room, the traditional venue, the group will gather in the East Room to abide by public health guidelines and allow for social distancing, a White House official said.
The gathering is timed to follow Biden’s launch of the first portion of his new infrastructure plan, the a multi-trillion dollar proposal aimed at traditional infrastructure projects to repair roads, rails and bridges, but which also includes billions to expand broadband internet access, community-based care for elderly Americans and investments in clean energy.
“It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Biden said in a speech in Pittsburgh Wednesday. “It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago. In fact, it’s the largest American jobs investment since World War II.”
The president on Thursday will highlight how the plan will “rebuild our infrastructure, strengthen American manufacturing, and position us to out-compete China,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement Wednesday.
The meeting will also focus on continued implementation and communication on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, as well as outline the role many Cabinet members will play on infrastructure, according to a White House official.
“I can’t wait,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Thursday morning on CNN of the meeting. “We’re interacting all the time because we’re on lots of interagency video conferences, as you might imagine, whether it’s about COVID or about the infrastructure plan, and whenever I’m looking at that screen, I’m just awed and humbled to be in the company of such amazing people.”
“It’s one thing to see it on a Zoom screen, but I can’t wait to be looking around the room and seeing this Cabinet in real life.”
The meeting will likely draw a sharp contrast to former President Donald Trump’s first Cabinet meeting in June 2017, in which participants offered effusive praise for the then-president, who offered his own praise for his administration’s accomplishments despite no major legislation yet passing through Congress.
“We thank you for the opportunity to and the blessing to serve your agenda,” Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff at the time, said during the meeting.
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