(WASHINGTON) – President Joe Biden signed his hard-fought $ 1 trillion infrastructure deal on Monday in front of a bipartisan, festive crowd on the White House lawn, declaring that the new infusion of cash for roads, bridges, ports and more will do life “changes for the better” for the American people.
But the prospects are tougher for further bipartisanship ahead of the midterm elections of 2022 when Biden returns to more difficult negotiations on its broader $ 1.85 trillion social spending package.
The president hopes to be able to use the infrastructure law to rebuild his popularity, which has taken a hit in the midst of rising inflation and the inability to completely shake up public health and the economic risks of covid-19.
“My message to the American people is this: America is moving again and your life will change for the better,” he said.
With the bipartisan agreement, the president had to choose between his promise to promote national unity and a commitment to transformative change. The latter action greatly diminished his original vision for infrastructure. Still, the administration hopes to sell the new law as a success as it bridges biased gaps and will lift the country with clean drinking water, high-speed internet and a shift away from fossil fuels.
“People, too often in Washington, the reason we did not get things done is because we insisted on getting everything we want. Everything,” Biden said. “With this law, we focused on getting things done. I ran for president because the only way to move our country forward, in my opinion, was through compromise and consensus.”
Biden will move outside Washington to sell the plane more widely in the coming days.
He plans to travel to New Hampshire on Tuesday to visit a bridge on the state’s “red list” for repairs, and he will travel to Detroit on Wednesday for a stop at General Motor’s assembly plant for electric vehicles, while other officials also fan out across the country. . The president went to the Port of Baltimore last week to highlight how supply chain investments from the law can limit inflation and strengthen supply chains, an important issue for voters dealing with higher prices.
“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 signing. Voting for voters can go “beyond the legislative process to talk about how this will help them. And we hope it will have an impact.”
Biden waited to sign the hard-fought infrastructure agreement after it went through on November 5 until lawmakers would be back from a congressional break and able to attend a spectacular two-party event. On the Sunday evening 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.
The gathering Monday on the White House lawn was uniquely optimistic with a brass band and peppery speech, a contrast to the drama and tension when the package’s fate was doubtful for several months. The speakers praised the measure to create jobs, fight inflation and respond to the needs of voters.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican who helped negotiate the package, celebrated Biden’s willingness to drop much of his original proposal to help bring in GOP lawmakers. Portman even credited former President Donald Trump for raising awareness of infrastructure, although the loser of the 2020 election expressed strong opposition to the final agreement.
“This bipartisan support for this bill comes because it makes sense to our constituents, but the center-left approach should be the norm, not the exception,” Portman said.
The signing included governors and mayors of both parties and labor and business leaders. In addition to 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, Alaska Representative Don Young and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
To reach a two-party deal, the president had to cut his original ambition to spend $ 2.3 trillion on infrastructure by more than half. The bill that becomes law on Monday actually includes about $ 550 billion in new spending over 10 years, as some of the spending in the package was already planned.
The agreement was eventually supported by 19 Senate Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. The Republicans in thirteen houses also voted in favor of the infrastructure proposal. An angry Trump issued a statement in which he attacked “Old Crow” McConnell and other Republicans for collaborating with “a terrible socialist infrastructure plan for the Democrats.”
McConnell said the country “desperately needs” the money for the new infrastructure, but he skipped Monday’s signing ceremony and told WHAS radio in Louisville, Kentucky, that he had “other things” to do.
Historians, economists, and engineers interviewed by the Associated Press welcomed Biden’s efforts. But they stressed that $ 1 trillion was not enough to overcome the government’s failure for decades to maintain and upgrade the country’s infrastructure. The policy essentially forced a balance in terms of potential impact, not only 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 here about what our infrastructure gap is in terms of investment level and go wide-eyed, that this will not solve our infrastructure problems across the nation,” said David Van Slyke, dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
Biden also tried unsuccessfully to link the infrastructure package to a broader $ 1.85 trillion package in proposed spending on families, health care and a transition to renewable energy that can help tackle climate change. That measure has not yet received sufficient support from the narrow democratic majorities in the Senate and the House.
Biden continues to work to appease Democratic skeptics to the broader package of Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, while adhering to the most liberal branches of his party. Pelosi said in remarks at Monday’s bill that he signed that the separate package will pass “hopefully this week.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz expressed concern during a Fox News interview on Sunday that Republican support for the infrastructure law could ultimately lead Democrats to rally and support the second package.
“They gave Joe Biden a political victory,” Cruz said of his Republicans. “He will now go all over the country and bid, look at this big two-party victory. And the extra momentum unfortunately makes it more likely that they will whip their Democrats in shape and send a multi-million dollar spending bill in addition to that.”
Talking about infrastructure has shown that Biden can still bring Democrats and Republicans together, even as tensions continue to rise over the January 6 attack by supporters of Donald Trump who mistakenly 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 law on infrastructure investment and jobs is a big deal,” said Peter Norton, a professor of history at the University of Virginia’s engineering department. “But the bill is not transformative, because most things are more of the same.”
Norton compared the limited response to climate change to the beginning of World War II, when Roosevelt and Congress reoriented the entire US economy following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Within two months, there was a ban on car manufacturing. The dealers had no new cars to sell in four years because the factories focused on weapons and munitions. To save on fuel consumption, a national speed limit of 35 mph was introduced.
“The emergency we are facing today requires a comparable emergency,” Norton said.