LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (AP) – President Joe Biden said America urgently needs a “generational investment” in its infrastructure as he seeks to sell voters the economic benefits of the $ 973 billion bipartisan package left in Congress faces an uncertain future.
On Tuesday, Biden traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin, of 52,000 residents and toured its public transportation hub, highlighting projects – including hybrid buses and road repair equipment – that would receive additional funding from the infrastructure bill. He argued that the package, held together in large part by the promise of millions of new jobs, is a way for the United States to enforce both the principles of democracy and the economic power that comes from making dramatic investments in the future of the United States Country can result.
“This deal is not just the sum of its parts. It is a signal to ourselves and to the world that American democracy can come through and deliver for all of our people, ”said Biden. “America has always been driven by pioneering investments into the future.”
He said there was an urgent need to improve crumbling infrastructure – from overloaded electricity grids to lead-filled water pipes to congested roads – and stressed that efforts must be ambitious to improve not only the daily lives of Americans now, but also to combat the growing challenges of climate change.
“We’re not just tinkering with the edges,” said Biden.
He also pitched on a personal note, remembering driving buses while he was in law school, and remembering the 1972 traffic accident that killed his first wife and daughter while calling for improvements to make the country’s roads safer close.
The Wisconsin visit marked the beginning of what the White House announced as a series of presidential tours to sell the bipartisan bill – and soothe the nervous Republicans who helped draft it.
“I’ll be out there advocating for the American people until this work is done, until we bring home this bipartisan bill,” the president said, despite allowing “more disagreements to be resolved, more”. Compromises “must be made.
The process was briefly in disarray late last week when Biden proposed that the deal be suspended until it received a much larger, separate package for infrastructure, jobs and education set solely by the Democrats through the Congressional “budget reconciliation” process would be.
Biden said on Saturday that this was not a veto threat and on Sunday the package appeared back on track. But there were still fears on both sides of the aisle.
Some Republicans have questioned the wisdom of signing a bipartisan bill when it is tied to a party-line reconciliation bill that will include a host of additional democratic priorities. And GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who has often declared his unwavering opposition to the Biden agenda, has questioned the process.
Meanwhile, Democrats also faced a balancing act: some more liberal members of the party have urged Biden to push for a Democratic-only law at least as large as his previously set target of $ 4 trillion, while some more moderate members have signaled that they i want a much smaller number. With the Senate deadlocked 50:50 and Vice President Kamala Harris severed ties, the White House cannot afford to lose a single vote.
When Biden trumpeted the bipartisan first version in public, the White House worked furiously behind the scenes to keep it on track.
Senior West Wing advisors, including top adviser Steve Ricchetti, met with House Democrats in the Capitol on Tuesday. Others had calls this week with more than 60 Democratic and Republican members, chiefs of staff and other aides, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Wisconsin.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Said she and other leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have reassurance that the strategy remains to bring bipartisan infrastructure and reconciliation laws together for Democrats only.
“They seem very attached to this strategy of the bills moving at the same time and the realization that this is the only way to get through,” said Omar.
Psaki said the White House is following the schedule of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said he would put both packages up for debate next month.
An internal White House memo underscores how the government claims the largest investment in transportation, water systems and services in nearly a century would fuel growth. The memo notes that the overall package is four times the size of the infrastructure investments made a dozen years ago in response to the Great Recession, and the largest since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.
It also highlights an analysis suggesting that 90% of the jobs created by spending could go to non-college workers, a major shift given that much of the net job gains prior to the pandemic went to college graduates.
“This is a blueprint for rebuilding America,” the memo reads.
The visit to La Crosse was indeed a political play, with fake road signs reading “American Jobs Plan” all over the venue. The president has long had contact with working class voters, while Wisconsin – along with Michigan and Pennsylvania – is part of the Great Lakes trios that Biden narrowly recaptured for the Democrats after being captured by Donald Trump in 2016.
Biden, who made a spontaneous stop for ice cream after his speech, received a proposal to order the taste of the stony road as an allusion to the infrastructure law. He quipped, “It’s been a rocky road, but we’ll make it,” and ordered cookies and cream and strawberries instead.
Potential economic gain was a shared incentive for the group of Democratic and Republican senators who agreed to the deal last week. McConnell said he has not yet decided whether he will support the bipartisan package but would like Biden to put pressure on House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Schumer to say they will pass the bipartisan agreement without asking that the much larger and broader follow-up law is passed on the spot.
“I appreciate the president saying he is ready to deal with infrastructure separately, but he doesn’t control Congress,” McConnell said this week.
The two bills have always been expected to move in parallel, and that is likely to continue as Biden drops his veto threat, but across the aisle after the nearly $ 1 trillion bipartisan package as well as his own broader package engages. Democratic leaders are pushing the broader bill, which includes Biden’s families and climate change proposals, as well as their own investments in Medicare, which grows to about $ 6 trillion.
One of the Democratic moderates, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, reiterated Tuesday that he would approve a party-level budget but did not address its scope.
He told MSNBC, “I agreed that this can be done.”
Lemire reported from Washington. Contributors to this report were associate press writers Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking in Washington and Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky.