Biden travels to Wisconsin to discuss infrastructure deal
Faced with a legislative hurdle in Congress, President Biden headed to Wisconsin on Tuesday, hoping to build support for the fragile framework of a bipartisan infrastructure proposal worth nearly $ 1 trillion in five years.
Biden, who will speak at a transit center in La Crosse, is expected to promote specific elements of the deal he agreed to last week with moderate senators on both sides. The White House called the potential legislation “the biggest long-term investment in our infrastructure in nearly a century.”
With Progressive Democrats frustrated that the proposal has been drastically scaled back from Biden’s original plan, the administration is eager to highlight possible benefits for clean energy aspects, communities of color and unionized workers .
The proposed $ 49 billion investment in public transit will certainly be a priority in La Crosse, a small town that has already started to transition its bus fleet to electric vehicles to meet its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Wisconsin infrastructure received a C on the annual newsletter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The state has 979 bridges and 1,949 miles of highways in poor condition.
According to an administration backgrounder, the bipartisan proposal provides more than $ 300 billion to repair roads and bridges across the country over eight years.
In his efforts to expand public support for infrastructure investments, which polls show are very popular, Biden notes that the proposal is bipartisan, a rarity in Washington. However, its passage is not a sure thing.
The president almost derailed the compromise last week after its announcement, when he said he would only sign it if it was accompanied by a second larger bill, a Democratic priority for further investment in the social benefits of workers and families which Republicans uniformly oppose.
Republicans who had backed the bipartisan package were baffled by the president’s explicit link. Biden quickly gave in, releasing a statement on Saturday saying he planned to sign a bipartisan infrastructure bill if Congress sent him one, even though he was working with Democrats on the second bill.
Some House progressives, however, continued to say they would not vote in favor of any bipartisan Senate bills unless the second, more important bill was approved and sent to the House. Their threat holds power given the slim majority of Democrats in the House.
Senator Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), one of the moderates who negotiated the bipartisan infrastructure bill, is Democrats’ 50th critical vote for a second bill; they would have to put it through the special reconciliation process to avoid Republican obstruction, but that requires votes from all Democrats. He urged Democrats on Tuesday to support the two bills, neither of which have yet been drafted.
“By saying, ‘I’m not going to vote for the other one,’ because you won’t get everything, we’ve never done legislation that way,” Manchin said in an interview on MSNBC. He has made it clear that he will likely support the Democratic bill, although it is not as important as the $ 6 trillion proposal launched earlier this month by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt. ) and supported by progressive lawmakers.
“Yes [there are] no Republicans, which I don’t think we’ll have, so we’ll have to achieve it through reconciliation, ”he said. “I just didn’t agree on the amount.”