Biden hits the road to sell historic infrastructure law


When President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, then Vice President Joe Biden was on his side. Months later, Biden watched with Obama as the Democrats suffer huge losses at the federal and state levels in the midterm elections.

Now Biden is the one to sell historic legislation to the American people ahead of what should be another grim midterm season for Democrats. This time around, it’s the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the biggest such federal investment in decades – and the biggest ever in some sectors. And Biden hopes soon to promote passage of his massive social spending framework, now blocked in Congress, which would fund clean energy, child care, tax credits, affordable housing, extended care. health and other initiatives.

The challenge, then and now, is how to sell voters plans that they might not see the benefits of for several years.

Two days after enacting the infrastructure bill, Biden made his goodwill tour of General Motors’ electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit, where he took a test drive with an electric SUV and said : “This Hummer is a hell of a vehicle.”

Biden said the infrastructure law will invest $ 7.5 billion in expanding the infrastructure of electric vehicle charging stations. While lawmakers are still crafting the final outlines of the “Build Back Better” social spending plan, the president maintained that the $ 1.85 trillion proposal would help boost U.S. manufacturing of electric vehicles and deliver. to consumers tax credits to buy them.

“We’re going to make sure the jobs of the future end up here in Michigan, not halfway around the world,” said the president, who was joined on Wednesday by members of the Michigan congressional delegation, the director GM General Mary Barra, United Auto Workers President Ray Curry and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

While Biden’s speech on Wednesday highlighted the impact the two major initiatives would have on the auto industry, the environment and union job creation, on Tuesday he focused on basic infrastructure critical to the Rural America: roads, high-speed internet and water supply systems.

Standing on an 82-year-old bridge over the Pemigewasset River in Woodstock, New Hampshire, Biden argued that the bill meets the basic needs of people living in small towns in America.

“These are real things,” Biden told about 30 residents as snow fell on his face. “What does it mean if a school bus or water treatment trucks or log trucks can’t cross?” It means jobs. It means time. It means energy. Without access to the bridge, the local fire department would have to travel 10 miles to reach the community, he said.

The bipartisan legislation is a much-needed victory for Biden, who continues to face fighting within the party over his landmark social safety net bill amid the ongoing pandemic and inflation in largely due to supply chain issues.

Biden’s infrastructure tour comes as the House prepares to vote on the Build Back Better plan. While the impact of this bill is more immediate, it is likely to spill over entirely to Democratic votes, leaving Biden more open to Republican overspending attacks.

He has seen his approval ratings drop even as the Democratic agenda remains popular. In a Washington Post-ABC poll released on Nov. 14, 63% of those polled supported the $ 1,000 billion infrastructure investment, but only 39% approved of Biden’s way of handling the economy. Its overall approval rate is 41%, down from 52% in April.

As the president’s motorcade passed through rural New Hampshire on Tuesday, it was greeted with pro-Trump and anti-Biden placards, with some reading “The Mandates are 4 Greed and Power,” a reference to the rules imposed to fight COVID -19. Just down the road from the bridge where Biden spoke, at least one protester was heard chanting “Let’s go, Brandon,” a slogan that has become the Conservative code for a vulgar anti-Biden statement.

“What I think he needs to do is pretty much what they’re doing already, and it hit the road and started selling this thing all over the country,” said Jim Manley, who was a senior staff member of former Senate Majority Leader Harry. Reid (D-Nev.). Manley has been instrumental in helping with the message and strategy around the Affordable Care Act.

“One thing we’ve learned from Obamacare is that you can’t promise too much,” Manley said. “But you have to figure out how exactly to show people that they are going to benefit from what has just been adopted. “

Obamacare’s political journey is a reminder of both the importance of messages and the long game politicians must play while they wait to see how the public receives their legislation. Republican criticism of the Affordable Care Act – including fears of rising costs and the loss of beloved doctors and false rumors of “death groups” – dominated the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014.

However, during the 2018 midterm cycle, protecting Obamacare from future repeal attempts was a key part of the Democrats’ successful efforts to recapture the House. As president, Biden was able to strengthen healthcare law by reducing premium costs through the American Rescue Act.

“The White House and many Democrats will certainly be frustrated with the discrepancy in the time it takes for people to feel the benefits of things,” said Jeremy Rosner, managing partner of GQR, a Democratic polling company. “But the Obamacare case shows that at some point sound policy on things that touch people’s lives – like health care, roads or child care, things like that – at the end of the day. counts … helps as messengers and becomes strong assets. “

That’s little comfort for Democrats heading into next year’s midterm election, a lesson Republicans learned in 2018.

“We were hoping that tax reform would be the silver bullet to allow us to keep the House,” said Matt Gorman, a GOP strategist who was communications director for the Republican campaign arm of the House during the last election cycle of the House. mid-term. “While I’m glad we did – it was good policy – it certainly wasn’t that quick fix.”

House Democrats overturned control of 41 GOP seats in 2018. Vulnerable House Republicans had hoped their legislative victories would distract from the controversies surrounding President Trump, but the tax review alone did not It wasn’t enough to get through a year that included a government shutdown, the investigation into Russia, family separation on the US-Mexico border, and legal troubles for various collaborators.

Gorman said Republicans would likely describe Biden as a “spectator,” not a leader, on events such as Afghanistan, the border and inflation.

“You can’t reverse a huge trend with just one piece of legislation,” Gorman said.

Historically, the president’s party has tended to lose seats in Congress in midterm elections. The 2022 map – currently being redesigned based on the 2020 census – will likely favor House Republicans, according to several analyzes. And House Democrats in some competitive districts, such as those of Kentucky’s John Yarmuth and Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick, have announced plans to retire.

Unlike the Health Bill, the Infrastructure Bill, which won the support of 19 Republicans in the Senate and 13 in the House, is likely to retain its popularity. The challenge for administration messaging is distinguishing what can be done now and what will not be ready for months or years. Officials stressed that this was not a 2009 stimulus bill designed for immediate effect. While some funds will be directed to existing programs, many projects will only be at the planning stage a year from now.

Asked about the implementation of the law’s $ 65 billion broadband service plan, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters earlier this month communities would see “activity and action “before the midterm elections next year, but that it would take” a number of months. ” for projects to take off.

“Getting it right is more important than rushing,” said Raimondo. “I think people will see their state come up with a plan; they will see us start to move forward on this plan. But you know, not everyone will have broadband in a year.

This week, several members of the administration, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are deploying to the Red and Blue States. of the country to promote the bill. The stops include a mix of politically important regions; urban areas such as San Francisco, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio; and cities such as New Orleans, where Regan will highlight the law’s environmental justice funding.

On Tuesday, Biden delved into the specific problems the law was supposed to address in places like Woodstock, which has a population of around 1,300. He noted that the bridge he stood on, on New Hampshire’s Highway 175, “has been structurally deficient for years,” with the maximum allowable weight on the bridge dropping from 40 to 20 tons as the state spent a quarter of a million dollars for “Pansic” repairs.

The infrastructure act will speed up major repairs on bridges by at least a year, many of them on roads in small towns like Woodstock, he said.

“My message to the people of New Hampshire is simple,” he said. “Thanks to this delegation, New Hampshire and America are on the move again. Your life will change for the better. And it is literal.

John reported from Los Angeles and Logan from New Hampshire.


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