U.S. President Joe Biden heads to the midwestern state of Wisconsin Tuesday, making a pitch for congressional passage of a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package to repair the country’s crumbling roads and bridges, and at the same time boost blue-collar employment.
Biden is visiting the small city of La Crosse, population 52,000, and will tour its public transit center before speaking about what he sees as the merits of the infrastructure package he negotiated last week with a group of 10 centrist U.S. senators, five Republicans and five Democrats.
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He told a group of Democratic donors Monday night the spending package “signals to the world that we can function, we can deliver. We can do significant things and show that America is back.”
The measure focuses on fixing deteriorating roads and bridges that Americans encounter every day. But Biden emphasized it also would greatly expand high-speed internet in the U.S. in rural communities, replace lead pipes that imperil drinking water systems, install electric vehicle charging stations and invest in public transit systems.
A White House memo said the construction package is four times the size of the infrastructure investment adopted after the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the biggest since the Depression of the 1930s spawned President Franklin Roosevelt’s massive New Deal spending.
The package includes the largest investment in passenger rail services since the creation of the country’s Amtrak system. In Wisconsin alone, the White House said, the measure would help repair 979 bridges and more than 3,100 kilometers of highways in poor condition.
The White House emphasized that 90% of the jobs generated by the infrastructure spending could go to workers without college degrees.
"This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America," the memo says.
Biden walked back the infrastructure veto threat and said he wholeheartedly supports it and the still-developing social spending legislation, while recognizing that Republicans would try to defeat the so-called “human infrastructure” legislation. If Congress eventually approves the social safety legislation, it could be that only Democratic lawmakers vote for it.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Biden is "eager" for Congress to approve both bills and that the president is going to "work his heart out" to make it happen.
"The president intends to sign both pieces of legislation into law," Psaki said.