Biden pitches infrastructure plan in red state Louisiana
President Biden on Thursday touted his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package in Louisiana, seeking to highlight the proposal’s bipartisan components as negotiations with Congress intensify.
Biden made two stops in the Gulf Coast state to highlight the American Jobs Plan, which would spend billions of dollars upgrading the country’s water systems, roads, bridges and ports, while weatherizing buildings and making structures better equipped to handle the effects of climate change.
The president visited Lake Charles, a city with roughly 80,000 residents that was hammered by back-to-back hurricanes last year, and spoke about how the spending package would benefit the area.
“We have to build back better in a whole series of ways,” Biden said in remarks on the banks of Lake Charles, with the dilapidated I-10 bridge as a backdrop. “It’s about building a strong foundation for the American people. So when I think about the threats of hurricanes, and global warming, and the poor condition of our economy as it relates particularly to infrastructure, I think of one thing. I think of jobs.”
Biden rolled out his infrastructure plan in late March, setting off a series of meetings and negotiations with lawmakers about potential changes to its scope and how to pay for it.
Biden on Thursday was adamant that his initial idea to pay for the plan through raising the corporate tax rate was reasonable, saying he was “sick and tired of corporate America not paying their fair share.”
“What I’m proposing is badly needed and able to be paid for and still grow — trickle down ain’t working very well, man,” Biden said. “We’ve got to build from the bottom up and the middle out. That’s how we built America.”
Earlier this year the president visited Texas to tour storm damage, and he went to Ohio to tout the passage of a $1.9 trillion economic relief law, but Thursday’s stop in Louisiana was Biden’s first foray into a deep red state to push for a proposal that has yet to pass or garner clear Republican support in Congress.
Biden was joined by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) and Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter, a Republican. Both men thanked the president for putting a spotlight on Lake Charles and its need for federal assistance, and Hunter expressed no reservations about working with a Democratic president.
“Mr. President, we come from different backgrounds. We come from different areas of the country. We grew up in different eras. Candidly, Mr. President, we are members of differing political parties, and there would be some policy that we would disagree on if we sat down with each other for a conversation,” Hunter said.
“But I guarantee you I would be willing to have that conversation with you. And I do believe that we can agree on the dire need here in Lake Charles for an infrastructure plan that could build us a new I-10 bridge here in Lake Charles.”
Former President Trump won Louisiana by almost 19 percentage points in the 2020 election.
The White House has sought to cast Biden’s proposal as bipartisan by pointing to public polling that shows strong support among GOP and independent voters, rather than the traditional idea of whether Republicans in Congress vote for it.
A Morning Consult poll released days after Biden announced his infrastructure plan found majorities of Republicans supported specific aspects of it, including spending on highways and roads; funding for long-term caregivers; and money to upgrade public school buildings.
A mid-April poll from NPR-PBS Newshour-Marist found that 56 percent of registered voters surveyed supported Biden’s infrastructure proposal, compared to 36 percent who opposed it. That support included just 18 percent of Republicans, but 51 percent of independent voters.
The president has held multiple meetings with House and Senate lawmakers in both parties to discuss the infrastructure proposal and ideas for how to pay for it. Biden will meet next week at the White House with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and colleagues of her choosing.
Biden and other White House officials have repeatedly indicated they are open to negotiations on how to pay for the package and what should be in it. But the president stressed on Thursday that he is prepared to move forward at a certain point with or without Republican lawmakers.
“I’m ready to compromise,” Biden said. “I’m not ready to have another infrastructure month and not change a damn thing.”