President Biden on Saturday marked a major step forward on the rocky path toward enacting his sweeping economic agenda, hailing the passage of bipartisan infrastructure legislation while urging his party to also enact another measure to expand the social safety net and fight climate change.
“Finally, the sausage is made,” he said at the White House with palpable relief after months of negotiations on Capitol Hill. The infrastructure bill, described by Biden as a “monumental leap forward”, includes $1 trillion in funding for roads, bridges and broadband internet access.
But, it also fulfills one of Biden’s campaign promises — that a person with decades of Washington experience could bring normalcy and compromise back to a country paralyzed in partisan bickering. The infrastructure bill was supported by both the Senate and the House Republicans. It received almost unanimous support from Democrats.
Biden encouraged legislators to tell skeptical voters that there is not enough money or too much money for this, but that overall this has been an enormous benefit.” This kind of argument has become rare in this age of increasing polarization.
The victory gave Biden an opportunity to mock his predecessor, Trump, but not by name.
Biden started his remarks with a Trump-era phrase, “infrastructure Week” — which became emblematic for the president’s failures to invest in infrastructure over his four years in office. Biden laughed and said, “I’m so glad to say that.”
Biden stated that the legislation would level the playing field and create more jobs for those without college degrees.
“This bill is for all those at home who feel neglected and forgotten in an economic system that’s rapidly changing,” he stated. The House vote was held days after Democrats lost Virginia’s governor’s seat and narrowly won New Jersey. These disappointing results convinced Biden that the voters wanted to see Biden’s agenda move forward.
” They want us deliver, and they want us deliver, and they want us deliver,” Biden stated. “Last night, we proved that we can. On one big item, we delivered.”
Biden said he plans to hold a signing ceremony soon, with both Democrats and Republicans.
Despite the victory, Biden is entering a delicate moment for his agenda and his party. On Friday, Progressive Democrats agreed to pass the infrastructure bill. However, they waited until the end of the month to consider safety net legislation. This was a brave leap of faith by moderate Democrats that they would support it later in the month.
Failure would splinter Democrats on Capitol Hill and make it more unlikely that they will fulfill their campaign promises.
Biden stated that he felt confident that the measure would pass. Asked what gives him the confidence, he responded with a smile — “me.”
Negotiations over the safety net legislation have been difficult, and Biden’s original $3.5-trillion plan has already been slimmed down to $1. 85 trillion This measure would finance universal preschool, child care subsidies, and expand public health care. Clean energy tax credits would attract more money.
“We’re now turning it around in a big way,” he said. “Anyone element of this plan would make a significant difference in America. But taken together, they’re truly consequential.”