New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Biden: Plans key to keep U.S. from ‘losing our edge’


HOWELL, Mich. — Calling opponents of his plans “complicit in America’s decline,” President Joe Biden made the case Tuesday for his ambitious building and social spending proposals by framing them as key to America’s global competitiv­eness and future success.

With his plans in jeopardy on Capitol

Hill, Biden visited a union training center in Michigan, declaring that he wanted to “set some things straight” about his agenda and cut through what he dismissed as “noise” in Washington.

“America’s still the largest economy in the world, we still have the most productive workers and the most innovative minds in the world, but we’re at risk of losing our edge as a nation,” he said.

Biden went on to spell out his plans in greater detail than he has in some time, after spending the past week deep in the details of negotiatio­ns on Capitol Hill. He highlighte­d popular individual parts of the plan, including funding for early childhood education and investment­s to combat climate change, rather than the expensive topline. And he emphasized that the trillions in spending would be drawn out over a decade and paid for by tax increases on corporatio­ns and the wealthiest Americans.

Polling suggests that elements in the bill such as expanded child care opportunit­ies and infrastruc­ture projects are popular with large parts of the public. But even some of the White House’s closest allies have worried that the West Wing has not done enough to sell the spending. That brought Biden back on the road Tuesday, hitting the red-leaning district of Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin to sell his policies.

“These bills are not about left versus right or moderate vs progressiv­e,” Biden said. “These bills are about competitiv­eness versus complacenc­y.”

Back in Washington, negotiatio­ns continue on a pair of bills to boost spending on safety net, health and environmen­tal programs and infrastruc­ture projects.

While there is cautious optimism about recent progress, no deal has been struck to bridge stark divides between moderates and progressiv­es in the Democratic Party on the size and scope of the social spending package. In recent weeks, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked unsuccessf­ully to secure passage of the bills, Biden stayed in Washington to cajole lawmakers and work phones.

Now, he’s trying to put the public focus on popular components of the bills rather than the inside-the-Beltway debate over their price tag. While progressiv­es and moderates grapple over the contours and the topline number for the $3.5 trillion social spending package, Biden has sought to reframe the debate around the eye-popping number. He contends that because the spending is to be paid for with tax hikes on corporatio­ns and the wealthy — those earning beyond $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples — the price tag of the bill is actually “zero.”

Speaking briefly to reporters after his remarks Tuesday, Biden acknowledg­ed that the overall $3.5 trillion number will decline, but insisted he’ll “get it done.”

The president was joined by Slotkin during a visit to a union training center in Howell, Mich., a reflection of the importance of securing moderates’ votes.

Biden, she said, understand­s “that if we’re going to make these investment­s we have to be able to pay for them.”

“We talked a lot about the fact that we are not going to take this bill and pass on more debt to our kids, and we are not going to pay for this bill on the back of working families,” she said.

Next to Biden, the Democrats with the most on the line over the shape and success of his spending plans are House members from swing districts whose reelection­s are essential if his party is to retain control of Congress.

Many of those targeted moderates — including Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran, Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger and nine other vulnerable Democrats — joined Biden for a virtual meeting on Tuesday. He held a similar session the previous day with a dozen progressiv­es.

Democratic legislator­s have warned that Biden’s bold ideas are getting lost in the party’s infighting and procedural skirmishes over the legislatio­n.

“We must communicat­e to the country the transforma­tive nature of the initiative­s in the legislatio­n,” Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers ahead of Biden’s trip.

The visit to Slotkin’s district, narrowly carried by Republican Donald Trump in 2020, is part of the sales effort.

Biden was met by hundreds of flag-waving, sign-toting protesters as he arrived at the union training center in Howell.

“I think this is very reflective of how residents, not only here in Livingston County, but real Americans, when you leave the Washington, D.C., bubble, feel about the out-of-control spending between our president and Congress,” said Meghan Reckling, chair of the county Republican Party.

 ?? Evan Vucci / Associated Press ?? President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his “Build Back Better” agenda during a visit Tuesday to Howell, Mich.
Evan Vucci / Associated Press President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his “Build Back Better” agenda during a visit Tuesday to Howell, Mich.

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