President Joe Biden took a bit of a victory lap at the White House the morning after the House passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, after a wrenching process by Democrats to unite their progressive and moderate wings.
Appearing with Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden said that there would be a formal signing ceremony “soon.”
Aware that so much of the focus has been on the legislative wrangling to secure passage — a process often labeled as “sausage making” — Biden used a portion of his appearance at the White House in outlining what the bill actually does.
“This is a blue collar blueprint to rebuild America,” Biden said of the package, which includes money to fix roads and bridges, upgrade passenger rail, modernize ports and airports and build out high speed internet service, particularly to rural areas. It also includes money for clean energy technology, the most visible of which may be plans to build a network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country.
Biden also again made a pitch for the second major part of his agenda, the Build Back Better Act, a $1.75 trillion bill to expand the social safety net and tackle climate change. That legislation, which would expand health care, provide universal pre-K and increase housing and college assistance, among other things, has yet to pass the House and faces uncertain prospects in the Senate. Biden offered few predictions on when he would secure passage, but said that he was “confident” that it could be done.
A group of House moderates are awaiting an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office of the fiscal impact of the Build Back Better Act. On the Senate side, where Democrats will likely need all their members in support, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have yet to pledge their support as they express misgivings over some key aspects of the bill.
Asked about the process of bringing factions of the party together, Biden gave himself the sign of the cross. He also implicitly acknowledged that the delay by Democrats in moving on the legislation may have hurt them in this week’s off year elections. “The one message that came across was, ‘Get something done.’”
Almost a year after networks declared that he defeated Donald Trump in the presidential election, Biden also got in a bit of a dig at his predecessor. Trump’s administration at times tried to pivot messaging toward the need for infrastructure legislation, only to get wildly off course with one of the president’s flare ups. It seemed to happen so often that it became a joke among reporters. At the start of his remarks, Biden said to the reporters gathered, “I am so happy to say that — infrastructure week.”
At the press conference, Biden raised his voice when he took a question from a reporter who asked him about his comment that a report about migrant families at the border getting payments was “garbage.” Biden made the comment earlier this week in answering a question from Peter Doocy, Fox News White House correspondent.
“No, I didn’t say that. Let’s get it straight, you said, everybody coming across the border gets $450,000,” Biden said, clarifying that he was referring to the amount.
The New York Times reported on Oct. 28 that the Biden administration and the Justice Department was in the midst of negotiations with lawyers representing separated families. The Times, quoting unnamed sources, reported that some families could receive as much as $450,000 for each member who was directly affected. But an agreement had yet to be reached.
Biden went on, “Here is the thing. If in fact, because of the outrageous behavior of the last administration, you coming across the border, whether legally or illegally, and you lost your child. You lost your child! Gone. You deserve some kind of compensation no matter what the circumstance. What that will be I have no idea. I have no idea.”
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