Biden makes case for infrastructure proposal: ‘We have to move now’
President Biden on Wednesday made the case for his aggressive $2 trillion plan to modernize aging infrastructure and address climate change, saying it would boost America’s competitive edge on the world stage and create well-paying, middle-class jobs.
In a speech in Pittsburgh, Biden spoke with urgency about the need to pass his American Jobs Plan to overhaul a “distorted and unfair” economy and help the U.S. outcompete nations such as China, framing the current moment as an opportunity to prove that democracies can deliver for their people.
“We have to move now,” Biden said in an afternoon address at Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center. “I am convinced that if we act now, in 50 years, people are going to look back and say this was the moment that America won the future.”
Biden’s $2.25 trillion proposal aims to repair 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, expand broadband access to rural and underserved communities, replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines to ensure clean water, invest in research and development and manufacturing, and expand access to home and community-based care.
Biden, who was introduced on Wednesday by a local union member who works for electric company Duquesne Light, said the plan would build a resilient and fair economy that “rewards work, not just rewards wealth.” He made reference to his strong support for unions and his roots in Scranton, Pa.
“Wall Street didn’t build this country. You, the great middle class, built this country, and unions built the middle class. And it’s time we rebuild the middle class. We’re going to bring everybody along,” Biden said.
The funds would be spent over eight years, and Biden is proposing paying for the legislation by hiking the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, which the White House says will pay for the investments over a 15-year period.
The White House has said the plan would create millions of jobs but has not offered a specific estimate. Biden on Wednesday vaguely referenced Wall Street estimates that the plan could create as many as 18 million jobs.
He appeared to be citing an analysis by Moody’s Analytics last year predicting that the economy would create 18.6 million jobs during Biden’s first term if Democrats in Congress were to fully adopt their proposed economic agenda.
The proposal represents Biden’s second major legislative push, coming just weeks after he signed his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill into law. It is the first part of a two-pronged plan aimed at spurring job creation, the second portion of which he is expected to lay out in April.
“Critics say we shouldn’t spend this money. They ask, what do we get out of it? Well, they said the same thing when we first flew into space for the first time. Well, pushing the frontiers led to big benefits back home,” Biden said.
Biden faces a test in getting it across the finish line. Progressives have complained that the plan is not bold enough in addressing climate change and are looking for more from the White House.
And while Biden would like to attract Republican support for a bill, GOP lawmakers have been critical of the plan to raise taxes on corporations. Democrats may ultimately need to pass a bill through budget reconciliation in order to bypass the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate on most legislation in the Senate.
“To pay for part of this massive new spending package, President Biden proposes steep new taxes on businesses which will hurt working families and last more than a decade. This is the wrong approach, and will only undermine our economy at a time when we are beginning to recover,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“We can work together to find common-sense ways to pay for real infrastructure legislation without resorting to partisan tax hikes that will hurt our economy,” Portman said.
The White House says it is open to discussion and ideas about how to change or improve upon the legislation, and Biden said Wednesday that he planned to reach out to Republicans for further discussion. Still, the president made it clear that he will not wait on Republicans to act.
“The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future. I’m going to bring Republicans into the Oval Office, listen to them, what they have to say, and be open to other ideas,” Biden said. “We’ll have a good faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to get this done. But we have to get this done.”
“I truly believe we are in a moment where history is going to look back on this time as a fundamental choice having to be made between democracies and autocracies,” Biden continued. “There’s a lot of autocrats in the world who think the reason why they’re going to win is democracies can’t reach consensus any longer. Autocracies do. That’s what competition between America and China and the rest of the world is all about. It’s a basic question. Can democracies still deliver for their people? Can they get a majority? I believe we can. I believe we must.”