Biden plugs infrastructure with a personal favorite: Amtrak

President Biden delivers remarks in Philadelphia at an event marking Amtrak's 50th anniversary
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PHILADELPHIA — President Biden made a personal stop here on Friday to mark the 50th anniversary of Amtrak and plug the billions of investments in passenger and freight rail proposed in his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan.  

The atmosphere was quintessential Biden, who spent much of his time as a U.S. senator commuting on Amtrak from Delaware to Washington, an experience he reflected on at length during his remarks. He joked about falling asleep on the train and missing the Wilmington stop, ending up instead in Philadelphia.

“Amtrak became my family,” he said. “You get to know everybody, you get to know the folks. … They work like the devil. They really, really do.”

Biden said that his infrastructure plan proposes spending $10 billion annually on passenger rail and freight rail, and by doing so the government would create “good-paying union jobs” and “accommodate” more by connecting underserved communities with cities.

“Amtrak doesn’t just carry us from one place to another. It opens up enormous opportunities,” the president said.

“Towns and cities that have been in danger of being left out and left behind will be back in the game,” he continued. “We have a huge opportunity here to provide fast, safe, reliable, clean transportation in this country.”

Biden gave his remarks outdoors at the 30th Street Station. He spoke from a lectern between railroad tracks, surrounded by stationary Amtrak trains. He was introduced by an 18-year Amtrak conductor who used to drive the train he took to work.

Biden’s infrastructure plan, which faces an uncertain future in a divided Washington, would modernize roads, bridges and rail, and it also includes hefty investments to address climate change by funding new technologies, such as electric vehicles, and making infrastructure more climate friendly.

“When I think about fighting climate change, I think about jobs and rail and hopefully the expansion of rail,” he said Friday. He argued that investing in freight rail in particular would take cars off the road by allowing trains to transport more goods.

The trip followed the president’s first address to a joint session of Congress this week in which he laid out in detail his infrastructure and families proposals, the latter of which would dramatically expand access to education and child care and extend tax credits for low- and middle-income families.

Biden and other top White House officials are crisscrossing the country over the next week to highlight achievements of the first 100 days of his administration, a milestone that Biden marked Thursday as he returned to Georgia — the state that delivered Democrats the Senate in January — in an attempt to secure momentum for his agenda.

Also Friday, Vice President Harris attended a roundtable on public transit in Ohio and second gentleman Doug Emhoff and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited a train station in North Carolina.

Biden’s agenda faces a steep uphill climb in Congress, where Democrats have razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans have criticized his plans as too costly and in particular vocalized opposition to the White House’s proposal to pay for the new investments with tax increases on corporations and wealthy Americans.

A group of Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) has introduced a counterproposal on infrastructure, about one-third the size of Biden’s, that focuses funding on more traditional projects.

Biden and Capito spoke by phone on Thursday and both expressed a willingness to try to find common ground, but it’s unclear whether a compromise is possible and whether other Democrats who have advocated for a robust investment to repair infrastructure and address climate change would go along with it.

As of Friday, there are no plans for Biden to meet with any lawmakers next week on his legislative agenda, though he is set to meet with the congressional leaders of both parties on May 12.

The White House circulated a memo to reporters on Friday to make the case for both Biden’s infrastructure and family spending proposals in the state of Pennsylvania specifically.

The memo says that more than 3,000 bridges and 7,500 miles of highway in Pennsylvania are in “poor condition” and that the state has experienced 37 “extreme weather events” that have cost as much as $10 billion in damages. It also notes the that an average two-year degree in Pennsylvania costs up to $5,700, the average annual cost of child care for a toddler is $11,400, and 13 percent of children living in Pennsylvania are considered poor.

Friday’s speech was also personal for Biden due to its location in Pennsylvania, the state where he was born and that delivered him the White House last November. As of Friday, Biden has made three appearances in the state as president.

Tags Amtrak amtrak anniversary Biden infrastructure Biden infrastructure plan Doug Emhoff Infrastructure Joe Biden Kamala Harris Pennsylvania Pete Buttigieg Philadelphia Rail transportation in the United States Shelley Moore Capito

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