President Biden on Friday made a personal appeal for his economic agenda, recalling his struggle to care for his sons after his first wife and daughter died in a car crash in 1972.

Biden, who had just been elected to the Senate at that time, told an audience at the Capitol Child Development Center in Hartford, Conn., that he couldn’t afford child care and would commute by Amtrak train from Wilmington, Del., to Washington, D.C., to see his children in the morning and evenings. He was making $42,000 per year at the time as a senator, he said.

“It made me realize how difficult it is for the vast majority of people who need help,” Biden said. “I am lucky. I had a mother who’s nearby, a sister who’s my best friend who quit her job temporarily and moved in with her husband to help me raise my kids. But most people don’t have that option.”

Biden sought to make the argument for his “human infrastructure” proposal, which would expand paid leave and access to care, provide access to free prekindergarten and community college, and extend the expanded child tax credit.

Biden’s first wife, Neilia, and his daughter, Naomi, died in a car accident around Christmas in 1972 just after he was elected to the Senate. Biden’s sons, Hunter and Beau, were also in the car and sustained serious injuries but recovered. Biden later remarried to Jill Biden.

Biden shared the personal anecdote before launching into a more familiar argument for his economic agenda, during which he underscored the need for the U.S. to invest in its infrastructure and people in order to boost U.S. competitiveness on the world stage.

“I wanted to come here today because too many folks in Washington still don’t realize it isn’t enough just to invest in our physical infrastructure. We also have to invest in our people,” Biden said. “Seeing children and educators here at this center is a perfect reminder of what our families need and our economy needs so badly to be able to thrive.”

Biden said his proposal would cut the cost of child care for most Connecticut families in half and that no middle-class family would pay more than 7 percent of their income on child care, a statement that earned him a round of applause.

Biden also described the expansion of the child tax credit as a “tax cut for the middle class.”

“My friends on the other side never had a problem providing $2 trillion in tax cuts for the very wealthy,” Biden said, chastising Republicans for supporting the 2017 Trump tax cuts.

Biden is proposing an increase in taxes on the wealthy and businesses, though the White House insists that those making less than $400,000 annually will not see a tax increase.

“I don’t think we should punish anybody, but just pay your fair share,” Biden said Friday.

Biden’s trip to Connecticut punctuated difficult negotiations among Democrats over his economic agenda, which will be included in a reconciliation package Democrats intend to pass without Republican support.

Democrats are trying to determine how to cut down the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package to satisfy two key Senate moderates — Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — who have expressed concerns about the price tag and the contents of the package.

At one point during his remarks on Friday, Biden expressed uncertainty around the proposal to offer two years of free community college, saying: “I don’t know whether I can get it done.”

Biden later acknowledged during his speech that the ultimate package would be less than $3.5 trillion but said he was nevertheless “convinced” Democrats would “get this done.”

“We’re going to come back and get the rest,” he said. 

Tags Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Trump tax cuts

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