Biden hails passage of infrastructure bill: 'Long overdue'

President Biden on Saturday hailed passage of the mammoth $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, describing it as a transformative measure that will reshape the U.S. transportation system, create jobs and prove to the American public that federal policymakers can deliver.

“We did something that’s long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington but never actually been done,” Biden said in remarks from the White House's State Dining Room just hours after the measure passed the House in a vote late Friday night.

The president described the bill as a “once-in-a-generation investment” that would put the U.S. on a path to “win the economic competition of the 21st century.”

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Biden said he planned to enact the measure at a signing ceremony “soon” but acknowledged it wouldn’t be this weekend, noting he wants lawmakers who helped get the bill across the finish line to attend.

The remarks represented a much-needed victory lap for Biden, who has negotiated with lawmakers for months to get his sweeping domestic legislative agenda through Congress.

The president also invoked the disappointing results for Democrats in the off-year elections on Tuesday, arguing the results showed Americans want Democrats to deliver with their majorities in Congress.

“The American people have made clear one overwhelming thing, I think,” Biden said. “They want us to deliver.”

“Last night, we proved we can — on one big item, we delivered,” he added.

The infrastructure bill contains $550 billion in new spending over five years to improve roads, bridges and rail, expand electric vehicle charging stations, expand broadband, and remove lead pipes.

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The measure passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support back in August but languished in the House as progressive and moderate lawmakers debated the sequencing and substance of a larger package containing Biden’s proposals to expand social programs and tackle climate change.

The House passed the bill late Friday night in a 228-206 vote after progressive lawmakers agreed to back off their demand that both bills be passed in tandem.

Instead, the House advanced the social spending package and kicked a vote on passing that legislation until later this month. As part of the agreement, a group of moderates issued a statement committing to supporting the measure if a forthcoming Congressional Budget Office assessment matches a cost analysis from the White House.

Thirteen Republicans voted in favor of the infrastructure bill, while six progressive Democrats bucked their party and voted against it in protest of the agreement to delay the final vote on the social spending measure. 

Biden on Saturday sought to project confidence in the path forward for the larger spending package, despite the uphill battle in both the House and Senate, where Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSunday shows preview: Democrats' struggle for voting rights bill comes to a head Biden's voting rights gamble prompts second-guessing King family to march for voting rights in Arizona before MLK Day MORE (D-W.Va.) has expressed doubts about aspects of the bill and its fiscal impact.

“Let me be clear: We will pass this in the House, and we will pass it in the Senate," Biden said. He insisted that the bill would be “fully paid for” and that it would “ease inflationary pressures” that Americans have experienced as the economy rebounds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, there are doubts about what will ultimately be in the final package in order for it to pass both the House and Senate with only Democratic votes through a process known as budget reconciliation. Asked by a reporter whether paid leave would ultimately be included in the bill, Biden said, “Time will tell.”

Biden appeared genuinely giddy as he entered the room with Vice President Harris and prepared to tout the elements of a bill that he negotiated with a bipartisan group of senators several months ago.

“Finally, infrastructure week!” Biden said, smiling and laughing. “I am so happy to say that.”

The president predicted that the U.S. would start to see the impacts of the infrastructure bill “within the next two to three months as we get shovels into the ground.”

“It is going to be a bill that is going to have a profound impact over time,” he said.

Biden argued that his agenda would be a boon for the American middle class because both bills would together create jobs and reduce health care, child care and education costs for working families.

“They bet on average Americans. They believe in America. They believe in the limitless capacity of the American people,” Biden said.