President Joe Biden argued in Wisconsin on Tuesday that the bipartisan infrastructure proposal he agreed to last week would benefit working and middle-class families around the country.
“After months of careful negotiation — of listening, compromising together and in good faith moving together, with ups and downs and some blips — a bipartisan group of senators got together and they’ve forged an agreement to move forward on the key priorities of my American Jobs Plan,” he said.
Biden said: “This is a generational investment, a generational investment to modernize our infrastructure, creating millions of good-paying jobs … and positions America to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century, because China is way outworking us in terms of infrastructure.”
The speech is Biden’s first time pitching the bipartisan infrastructure proposal to the American people since nearly derailing the deal in off-the-cuff remarks last week. While speaking to reporters at the White House, Biden said he wouldn’t sign the bill he had just negotiated unless another sweeping proposal of Democratic priorities landed on his desk as well.
The White House spent days working behind the scenes to assure Republicans that Biden would support the deal, and the President then issued a lengthy statement over the weekend clarifying his remarks and said he would not veto the bill.
Biden said his proposal, which would total $1.2 trillion over eight years, would make much-needed upgrades across the country — including to bridges, roads and public transportation — while creating millions of jobs. He said the nation’s crumbling infrastructure is a “drain on our economy.”
“You all know that feeling losing time, sitting in traffic or being rerouted because the bridge isn’t wide enough or the road is poorly maintained. This deal is going to put Americans back to fixing all of that, and good paying jobs,” Biden said. He said the average American pays a “hidden tax” of more than $1,000 a year in wasted time and fuel due to traffic congestion.
The President stressed the safety aspect of his plan, and said the US has one of the highest road fatality rates of anywhere in the industrial world. He paused for a moment and then said, “I lost a wife and daughter and almost lost two sons.”
Biden’s wife and infant daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972. “I bet every one of you here can tell me what the most dangerous intersections in your town are,” Biden said.
The President highlighted the investments to replace lead pipes around the country, and said: “This deal contains the largest investment in clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in American history.”
Biden also praised the bipartisan nature of the agreement, and said it is a “signal to ourselves and to the world that American democracy can come through and deliver for all of our people. We can be united.”
“We can’t give up on what we keep finding ways to come together because every time we negotiate in good faith and come together and get something big done, we break a little more of the ice that too often keeps us frozen in place and prevents us from solving the real problems people are facing,” Biden said.
Biden laid out the specific ways the plan would benefit those in Wisconsin, including replacing all of Milwaukee’s lead water service lines, bringing high-speed internet to the 82,000 children in Wisconsin that don’t have access to reliable internet and help address the 1,000 bridges in Wisconsin rated structurally deficient. He touted how the plan would also deploy 35,000 electric buses to school districts and create half a million electric vehicle charging stations around the nation.
Biden reiterated his commitment to delivering on his American Families Plan — a sweeping proposal of Democratic priorities that would invest heavily in education, childcare and paid family leave.
“The human infrastructure is intertwined with our physical infrastructure. It’s going to help us create more good jobs, ease the burden of working families and strengthen our economy in the long run.
The President said: “I’m going to be out there making the case for the American people until this job is done, until we bring this bipartisan deal home, until our human infrastructure needs are also met, until we have a fairer tax system to pay for all of this.”
The fate of the infrastructure package in Congress remains uncertain. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week the House won’t take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate passes the Families Plan through budget reconciliation, which would only require Democratic votes. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Democrats to back off of that plan and warned both efforts could collapse if they carry through with Pelosi’s goal.
A group of 11 Republicans signed onto the bipartisan infrastructure framework, but it is unclear whether they will all continue to stand by it. One member of that group, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has warned he will vote against the bill if Democrats hold it up to get reconciliation done.
This story has been updated with more from Biden’s speech.