Biden Says New Infrastructure Law Addresses ‘Kitchen Table’ Issues
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden promoted his new infrastructure law as legislation addressing “kitchen table” issues for Americans in a visit to New Hampshire on Tuesday, part of a nationwide campaign to reap political rewards from the measure.
Biden walked across a dilapidated bridge in Woodstock, New Hampshire, before calling it unsafe -- one of dozens around the state that he said the new law would help repair or replace.
He thanked Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who may be facing a competitive re-election bid next year, for supporting the measure. Democrats are at risk of losing their narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress.
“Maggie was a key player in every aspect of this law,” he said. “She led by getting bipartisan support. She made the case for making sure the law delivers high speed internet everywhere in New Hampshire, which is -- you know from the pandemic -- is badly needed.”
Biden signed the law on Monday in a White House ceremony. He and the White House are counting on the measure to help revive his party’s political fortunes, which suffered a blow earlier this month with unexpected defeats in state elections. Biden’s approval rating is sagging over voter concern about inflation, the lingering pandemic and congressional gridlock.
The president and top administration officials are fanning out to promote the infrastructure law, even as he pushes for Congress to pass the second piece of his economic agenda, a more controversial measure called “Build Back Better” that would combine tax changes with climate and social welfare programs.
“We’re about to turn things around in a big way,” Biden said.
The bridge over the Pemigewasset River is among 215 in New Hampshire considered “structurally deficient,” Biden said. He told voters in the state that the infrastructure law’s passage shows “it’s not hyperbole to say that your delegation is laser-focused” on concerns discussed “around your kitchen table.”
“This is real stuff,” he said, saying repair and replacement of bridges would mean shorter commutes for workers and school children and might save lives if emergency vehicles don’t have to take detours. “It’s about taking care of their legitimate needs.”
Biden was accompanied by former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, appointed over the weekend to supervise spending under the infrastructure measure. “Mitch loves the cold and snow,” the president joked as light snow fell at the bridge.
Inflation continues to hurt Biden’s standing with voters. U.S. consumer prices rose last month at the fastest annual pace since 1990, cementing high inflation as a hallmark of the pandemic recovery and eroding spending power even as wages surge.
Data released Tuesday showed that retail sales jumped 1.7%, beating economists’ estimates and signaling that Americans continue to sustain a robust pace of merchandise purchasing despite price increases.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll, taken after the infrastructure bill passed the House but before it was signed, found Biden had a 41% approval rating, down from 44% two months earlier and 50% at the end of June. Just 39% of people approved of his handling of the economy, the poll found.
Biden has touted the infrastructure bill as a measure that will ease bottlenecks driving inflation over the long term, such as at ports, as Republicans seize on the issue to oppose his agenda over fears the new government spending will further push up prices.
Democrats continue to haggle over Build Back Better, which party leaders aim to pass through reconciliation, an approach that doesn’t require Republican votes. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimates of the bill are due by Friday and the House plans to vote soon after they are published, with leaders increasingly confident the bill can pass the House. A major showdown looms in the Senate over policy differences and a procedure to check the bill for rules violations which is expected to last into early December.
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