President Joe Biden on Monday signed one of his biggest legislative victories into law, the final approval of the hard-fought $555 billion infrastructure bill.
The act will direct billions of dollars towards new construction of roads, bridges, airports and seaports. It will also expand the availability of broadband internet, replace lead pipes, and build electric vehicle charging stations.
“Here in Washington, we’ve heard countless speeches and promises, white papers from experts, but today we’re finally getting this done,” Biden said Monday. “So my message to the American people is this, America’s moving again, and your life is going to change for the better.”
Democrats, who have seen the political tides turn this year, are staking much of their futures on touting the legislation in next year’s midterm elections. Biden framed the bill as a once in a generation investment that shows what Democrats and Republicans can accomplish when they work together.
“I know you’re tired of the bickering in Washington, frustrated by the negativity,” Biden said. “And you just want us to focus on your needs, your concerns, and the conversations that are taking place at your kitchen table, conversation as profound as they are ordinary.”
While the carefully choreographed ceremony on the White House lawn was designed to tout the bipartisan nature of the bill and had been put off for a week so members of Congress could attend, several notable Republicans who voted for the legislation were absent, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who said he had “other things I’ve got to do.”
While not there, Biden thanked McConnell for supporting the bill. Among the Republicans who attended were Sen. Rob Portman, R-Oh., who spoke at the event, along with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
The White House said it invited all lawmakers who voted for the bill, including 19 Republicans from the Senate and 13 from the House members, along with other GOP elected officials from state governments. In the days since the bills passed, Republicans who supported the legislation have increasingly come under attack by members of their own party.
Congressional Republicans who voted for the bill have been blasted by members of their own party with some saying they have received death threats.
For Biden, the bill signing kicks off a week of travel. He will cross the country trying to sell the bill to the public and push for Congress to pass a second social safety net spending package.
Biden will visit an interstate bridge in New Hampshire on Tuesday and on Wednesday he will head to an electric vehicle plant in Michigan. Last week he visited the Port of Baltimore to discuss the country’s shipping and logistics.
White House officials blamed Democrats‘ losses in Virginia earlier this month and a closer than expected governor’s race in New Jersey on a lack of action on Washington on Biden’s domestic agenda.
While Biden looks to get political credit for the new law, the White House is keeping their focus on trying to get Congress to passed a separate $1.75 trillion spending bill that would fund measure like universal pre-K and programs to lower medical costs.
In recent weeks, Biden has seen his approval ratings drop. A Washington Post/ABC poll, conducted after the House passed the infrastructure bill, found Biden’s job rating at 41 percent, even though the same survey shows 63 percent of Americans supporting the legislation. The poll found just 35 percent of Americans believe Biden has accomplished a great deal or a good amount during his first 10 months in office.
The White House has struggled to convince Americans that the bill is connected to alleviating the economic pressures around inflation, product shortages and labor shortages.
The White House said he has chosen former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to coordinate the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure plan.
By Shannon Pettypiece | NBC News