Biden Calls Foes of Economic Plans ‘Complicit’ in U.S. Decline
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden declared that politicians who oppose his economic agenda are undermining the country itself, calling on Congress to pass a pair of infrastructure and social-spending measures he said would cement U.S. competitiveness.
“To support these investments is to create a rising America, an America that’s moving,” Biden said at a union training center in Howell, Michigan. “To oppose these investments is to be complicit in America’s decline.”
Biden visited the political battle-ground state to shore up support for his proposals among centrist lawmakers. The two bills have faltered on Capitol Hill because of divisions between Democratic liberals and moderates.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scrapped plans for a vote on the infrastructure legislation already passed by the Senate after progressives said they’d oppose it without a pledge from Democratic senators to pass the second bill.
White House officials saw the trip to Michigan as a chance to reset the narrative and focus attention on the benefits of the president’s proposals, after days of headlines dominated by Democratic infighting.
Some Biden allies are worried that the president hasn’t done enough to sell the tax-and-spending package to the public, and that media coverage has focused on the overall price tag and political disputes rather than provisions of the bill that polls show are popular, such as paid family leave and new federal support for child and elderly care.
Biden framed the measures as legislation that would assure the U.S. remains competitive with fast-rising adversaries such as China.
“The work of our time, it seems to me, those of us who hold public office, is to prepare ourselves to be more competitive and to win the fast-changing 21st century, in a global economy,” he said. “These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive, or anything that pits Americans against one another.”
The travel is also a chance to extend an olive branch to House moderates who have expressed frustration that Biden was willing to postpone the infrastructure vote, and with what they regard as a narrow White House focus on the Senate’s two recalcitrant Democrats -- West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema.
Biden made his remarks Tuesday in the district of Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat and former Central Intelligence Agency analyst who narrowly won her House seat in a district carried by former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Late last month, Slotkin criticized Democratic leadership for linking the infrastructure and social-spending bills.
“It was hard for me to understand why leadership decided in the first place to tie the two bills together,” Slotkin told The Detroit News. “That’s not how we normally operate. It’s not my preference.”
White House officials view Rust Belt states like Michigan, where harsh winters punish roads and bridges, as politically beneficial venues to promote the benefits of the president’s programs. The state is set to receive at least $7.3 billion for its highways, $563 million for bridges, and $1 billion for other infrastructure under the president’s proposals, according to a White House memo released Monday night.
At the union training facility, Biden and Slotkin were joined by Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, for a tour that included a virtual reality simulator apprentices use to practice for their commercial driver’s license exams. Biden said his economic plans, once they’re law, could be used by schools to purchase similar equipment.
“Every bit is paid for, by the way. No deficit, every bit of it is paid for up front,” Biden said during the tour.
He also criticized Republicans for blocking Democratic efforts to raise the federal debt ceiling and avert a possible first-ever default.
The debt limit, Biden continued, has “nothing to do with money spent in the future, it’s all money that was spent in the past by the previous administration.” The president’s motorcade route in Howell was lined by large crowds of Trump’s supporters.
After returning to Washington, Biden said that a “real possibility” was for Democrats to temporarily and unilaterally change Senate rules that would allow the debt suspension to pass without a Republican votes in the evenly divided chamber.
Biden is planning additional travel to bolster the infrastructure and social-spending legislation in coming weeks, Psaki said, including a trip to Chicago on Thursday for an event that was scrapped last week as he tended to congressional negotiations.
Biden held a virtual meeting Tuesday with swing-district Democrats before departing for Michigan, looking to quell discontent over the pulled infrastructure bill.
Many members in competitive districts have described the bill as a crucial potential accomplishment for their upcoming midterm campaigns.
“He’s reaching out to Democrats all across the spectrum, and I think what we’re doing here is making sure that everybody’s voice is heard as we converge on compromise consensus,” White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said Tuesday on MSNBC.
The efforts to woo moderates come after Biden on Monday warned a group of progressive lawmakers that he was considering setting income limits on some provisions of the social spending bill to lower the price tag, according to a person familiar with the discussion.
Biden last week told lawmakers that he expected the cost of the measure to fall from the $3.5 trillion over 10 years he previously supported, and that he had discussed a range between $1.9 trillion and $2.2 trillion with Sinema and Manchin, according to a second person familiar with the matter. Both people asked not to be identified detailing private discussions.
On Monday night, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met on Capitol Hill with White House officials, including Biden’s economic adviser Brian Deese, domestic policy adviser Susan Rice and legislative liaison Louisa Terrell. They discussed the economic package, according to a person familiar with the session, and Schumer said afterward that there had been unspecified “progress.”
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