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Biden signals he won't be thrown off course

President BidenJoe BidenFauci says school should be open 'full blast' five days a week in the fall Overnight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Immigration experts say GOP senators questioned DHS secretary with misleading chart MORE is pressing ahead with his plans for a mammoth infrastructure and climate package, signaling he doesn’t intend to be knocked off course by unexpected crises surrounding gun control and the border.

Biden sees this moment as his best opportunity to repair the country’s aging roads and bridges, tackle the climate crisis and boost job creation as the U.S. tries to recover from an unprecedented and debilitating pandemic that also walloped the economy.

During his first press conference last week, Biden signaled his focus will be the infrastructure package despite two mass shootings that took the lives of 18 people and the growing wave of migrant children at the border.

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Biden’s comments bothered gun control advocates, who saw it as an indication by Biden that gun legislation was not a top priority for him. But for Biden, the raging pandemic and accompanying economic crisis are still front and center.

He believes he has political momentum off the passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill and has signaled he wants to move forward with another huge package.

“If there is a moment for something to really happen and make a big difference in the competitiveness of the country, he’s going to pursue that path,” said Sarah Bianchi, a former top economic adviser to Biden when he was vice president. “It doesn’t mean he can’t do other things. But it means that you don’t get knocked off course.”

Officials have been working on the infrastructure and climate proposal for several weeks, and it is likely to mirror Biden’s Build Back Better recovery plan laid out on the campaign trail. The proposal is expected to focus on spurring job creation by rebuilding roads, bridges and schools, expanding broadband and investing in technologies to address climate change.  

In tackling infrastructure, Biden is trying to achieve what his predecessors  former Presidents Trump and Obama  were unable to.

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“He has always wanted to do this, and the sense is that he wants to go big,” said Norman Anderson, chairman and CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure, who noted that Biden attended a summit hosted by his organization at the end of his term as vice president.

Still, Biden is having to balance his latest legislative push with a handful of compounding challenges, including the shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colo.

When asked about action on gun control at last week’s press conference, Biden pointed to the importance of timing his agenda properly.

“Successful presidents — better than me — have been successful, in large part, because they know how to time what they’re doing — order it, decide and prioritize what needs to be done,” Biden said.

It wasn’t what gun control advocates wanted to hear. Still, advocates say they are encouraged based on conversations they have had with White House officials and Biden’s own commitment that the issue won’t be on the permanent backburner.

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“We know that they are working now on a variety of things to tackle this issue,” said Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign. “From our perspective, they are doing the right things.”

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden says he and GOP both 'sincere about' seeking infrastructure compromise The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Colonial pays hackers as service is restored Colonial paid hackers almost M in ransom: report MORE said Monday that Biden understands the frustration of gun control advocates and noted the administration is engaging with Congress on legislation.

“We are also continuing to review and consider what the options are for executive actions. We hope to have an update on that soon. I don’t have an exact day for you at this point in time,” Psaki told reporters.

The Biden administration is also under pressure to work with Congress to reform the immigration system. The House passed two immigration bills earlier this month that would provide a pathway to citizenship for legal status for young undocumented immigrants and undocumented farm workers.

“They’re massively popular initiatives that really should be garnering bipartisan support in the Senate,” Clara Long, who focuses on immigration and border policy at Human Rights Watch. “It just feels like the redux of the last decade of immigration legislation. Why does it never get done?”

Still, Democrats say that it is vital now that Biden introduce this package in order to help rebuild following the damage done to the U.S. economy over the last year, during which millions lost their jobs.

“The American Rescue Plan put a floor under the economic damage that the pandemic has wrought, the vaccine rollout has accelerated at truly an astounding pace,” said Josh Freed, who leads the climate and energy program at centrist Democratic think tank Third Way. “Now we need a path to see how the jobs are created to repair long-term the damage that the pandemic did and even before that the lasting damage that the great recession did.”

The economy, in addition to the coronavirus pandemic, is on the top of minds of many Americans. Democrats are hoping that an infrastructure package will be as popular as Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, which could provide some political momentum ahead of the 2022 midterm elections as Democrats look to retain their razor-thin majorities in Congress.

Biden will lay out his plan during a speech in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The White House is hoping to get Republican support for the proposal, but has not ruled out using budget reconciliation to pass it without GOP support in the Senate. The White House is hopeful that a package could be passed by the summer.

“I think the biggest risk is inaction. We saw with the American Rescue Plan that not only is the plan popular, but approval of Congress is going up,” said Freed. “What it says to me is, especially after the last four years, people want solutions and they want government to be part of the solution and not the problem. That’s what this is doing."