President Joe Biden signed his $ 1 trillion (880 billion) infrastructure deal on Monday on the White House lawn, hailing it as an example of what bipartisanism can achieve.
The president hopes to use the law to rebuild his popularity, which has taken a hit due to rising inflation and the inability to fully shake the risks to public health and the economy from COVID-19. .
“My message to the American people is this: America is moving again and your life will change for the better,” Biden said.
With the bipartisan deal, the president had to choose between his promise to promote national unity and his commitment to transformative change. The final measure reduced much of its initial vision of investing in roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, ports, electric vehicles and the power grid. Yet the administration hopes to sell the new law as a success that has bridged the partisan divisions and that will elevate the country with clean drinking water, high-speed Internet and a move away from fossil fuels.
“Too often in Washington, the reason we don’t do things is because we insist on getting everything we want,” Biden said in his prepared remarks. “With this law, we have focused on getting things done. I ran for president because the only way to advance our country is through compromise and consensus. “
Biden will be exiting Washington to sell the plan more broadly in the coming days.
He plans to go to New Hampshire on Tuesday to visit a bridge on the state’s “red list” for repair, and on Wednesday he will go to Detroit for a stop at General Motors’ electric vehicle assembly plant, as other officials branch out as well. across country. The president went to the Port of Baltimore last week to highlight how investments in the supply chain by law could limit inflation and strengthen supply chains, a key concern of voters who are struggling with lower prices. tall.
“We see this as an opportunity because we know the president’s agenda is quite popular,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday before the signing. Contact with voters can go “beyond the legislative process to talk about how this will help them. And hopefully this will have an impact.”
Biden held back signing the hard-fought infrastructure deal after it was passed on November 5 until lawmakers returned from a congressional hiatus and could participate in a bipartisan event. On Sunday night before the signing, the White House announced that Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, would help manage and coordinate the implementation of infrastructure spending.
Monday’s gathering on the White House lawn was uniquely celebratory with an upbeat brass band and lively speeches, contrasting with the drama and tensions when the fate of the package was in doubt for several months. Speakers praised the measure for creating jobs, fighting inflation and responding to voter needs.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican who helped negotiate the package, celebrated Biden’s willingness to throw overboard much of his initial proposal to help engage GOP lawmakers. Portman even credited former President Donald Trump for raising awareness of infrastructure, even as the underdog in the 2020 election expressed intense opposition to the final deal.
“The center-out approach should be the norm, not the exception,” Portman said.
The signature included governors and mayors of both parties and union and corporate leaders. In addition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the guest list included Republicans such as Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, Maine Senator Susan Collins, New York Representative Tom Reed, Representative of the Alaska Don Young and the Governor of Maryland. Larry Hogan.
To reach a bipartisan deal, the president had to cut his initial ambition to spend $ 2.3 trillion (€ 2 trillion) on infrastructure by more than half. The bill that becomes law on Monday actually foresees around 550 billion dollars (484 billion euros) of new spending over 10 years, since some of the expenses of the package were already foreseen.
The deal eventually won the support of 19 Senate Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. Thirteenth House Republicans also voted for the infrastructure bill. An angry Trump issued a statement attacking “Old Crow” McConnell and other Republicans for collaborating on “a terrible democratic socialist infrastructure plan.”
McConnell says the country “desperately needs” the new infrastructure funding, but skipped the signing ceremony on Monday, telling WHAS radio in Louisville, Kentucky that it has “other things” to do.
Historians, economists and engineers interviewed by The Associated Press welcomed Biden’s efforts. But they pointed out that $ 1 trillion was not enough to overcome the government’s failure for decades to maintain and upgrade the country’s infrastructure. Politics has essentially imposed a trade-off in terms of the potential impact not just on the climate, but on the ability to surpass the rest of the world this century and remain the dominant economic power.
“We need to be sober about what our infrastructure gap is in terms of investment level and go into this with eyes wide open, that this won’t solve our infrastructure problems nationwide,” said David Van Slyke, principal of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
Biden has also unsuccessfully attempted to tie the infrastructure package to the passage of a larger package of $ 1.85 trillion (1.63 billion euros) in proposed household spending, healthcare and a shift to renewable energy that could help. addressing climate change. This measure has yet to garner sufficient support from the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate and House.
Biden continues to work to appease Democratic skeptics of the larger package like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, while maintaining the more liberal branches of his party. Pelosi said in a comment on the bill on Monday, signing that the separate package will pass “hopefully this week”.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz expressed concern during an interview with Fox News Sunday that Republican support for the infrastructure bill could ultimately lead Democrats to rally and support the second package.
“They gave Joe Biden a political victory,” Cruz said of his fellow Republicans. “Now he’s going to cross the country to propagate, look at this big bipartisan victory. And this additional momentum, unfortunately, makes it more likely that they’ll get their Democrats in shape and approve a multi-billion dollar spending bill in addition to this one that will include …
Infrastructure bargaining has shown Biden can still unite Democrats and Republicans, even as tensions continue to mount over the January 6 assault on the US Capitol by Donald Trump supporters who falsely believe Biden was not legitimately elected president. Yet the result is a product that may not meet the existential threat of climate change or the transformative legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose portrait hangs in Biden’s Oval Office.
“Yes, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a big deal,” said Peter Norton, a history professor in the Engineering Department of the University of Virginia. “But the bill is not transformative, because most of it is more or less the same.”
Norton likened limited action on climate change to the start of World War II, when Roosevelt and Congress redirected the entire US economy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Within two months, there was a ban on car production. Dealers had no new cars to sell for four years as factories focused on weapons and war material. To save fuel consumption, a national speed limit of 35 mph was introduced.
“The emergency we face today ensures a comparable emergency response,” Norton said.
There are several ways to analyze the size and scope of your infrastructure bill. White House aides anchored their research to the historic landmark of building the interstate highway system from 1957 to 1966. Based on this metric, Biden can rightly say that the additional $ 550 billion in infrastructure spending would be more. double the cost of the motorway system when adjusted for inflation.