Biden wants to sell Louisiana a new bridge — and much more

President Biden speaks in front of a lake and a large bridge.
President Biden promotes his jobs and infrastructure plan in Lake Charles, La., with the aging Calcasieu River Bridge behind him.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

President Biden pressed his case for taxing the rich to fund his multitrillion-dollar infrastructure proposal Thursday, pointing to an aging highway bridge and crumbling water facilities in Louisiana as proof that the federal government needs to step in with more money.

“The blinders have been taken off the American people,” Biden said while standing at the edge of Lake Charles in the state’s southwest corner. “They know how bad [of] shape things are in.”

Behind him, on the other side of the shimmering lake, cars and trucks crossed the overburdened Calcasieu River Bridge, which was built seven decades ago but designed to last only five.

“I’ve never seen a Republican or a Democratic road. I just see roads,” Biden said. He added, with a dig at former President Trump’s repeated but unfulfilled promises to fix public works like the bridge: “I got so tired of hearing ‘Infrastructure Week.’ Nothing happened.”

Biden made a populist pitch in the first red state he’s visited since unveiling what he calls the American Jobs Plan, arguing that the country would benefit from higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy to finance new roads, bridges, water pipes, educational programs and social services. With Democrats holding only slim majorities on Capitol Hill, Biden is trying to win over some Republican votes before any attempt to push through legislation on a party-line vote.


And Biden’s trip to Louisiana underscores his pitch that red states would benefit from the plan as much as blue states.

Biden visits Louisiana, going over the heads of Republican foes in Congress, to seek bipartisan voter support for his infrastructure and jobs plan.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have argued that higher corporate taxes would lead to higher prices for everyday consumers.

Biden says the taxes are necessary to make desperately needed improvements without adding to the deficit.

“I don’t want to punish anybody,” the president said. “You’re entitled to be a millionaire or a billionaire. Just pay your fair share.”

After all, Biden argued, the wealthy won’t be hurt by an increased tax rate.

“Those folks are still going to have two homes or three homes and jets,” he said.

Next, Biden headed to New Orleans to talk about federal investments in water projects — a potentially popular idea in a coastal state increasingly threatened with inundation spurred by climate change. He was met at the airport by a number of elected officials, including Louisiana’s two U.S. senators, both Republicans.

So far, Republicans have lined up in opposition to Biden’s plan, saying that $2.25 trillion in spending over a decade is too expensive. They’re also resisting the president’s effort to partially undo the tax cuts enacted by Trump and Republicans, who controlled Congress at the time.

Some Republicans have offered a far smaller infrastructure package and put the cost at $568 billion, but much of that reflects money already projected for such expenditures, while Biden is calling for new funding.

Despite the lack of support from elected Republicans, Biden’s plans are broadly popular with the public. Two out of three Americans support his infrastructure proposal, according to polls released by Monmouth University and the New York Times last month. However, only one-third of Republicans in those polls backed the plan.

Asked about the low support from Republican voters, Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden would continue to press his case with them.

“We’re here in Louisiana, we’re on this tour, and we’re going to continue to have the conversation and talk directly to the American people,” she told reporters on Air Force One.

The 74-acre facility that Biden toured in New Orleans is responsible for purifying drinking water and powering drainage pumps that are critical in a city that’s largely below sea level.

A reminder of the area’s problem arrived a day before Biden’s visit, when heavy rains led to flash flood warnings. Administration officials estimate that fixing Louisiana’s water infrastructure would cost $7 billion over two decades.

“The whole system could fail,” warned Ghassan Korban, executive director of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.

While visiting, Biden gazed across pools of water that were awaiting purification, stared up at a tower holding 2 million gallons, and visited a boiler room stuffed with hissing and clanging machinery that generate power for the drainage pumps.

At one point along the tour, Biden joked to reporters: “We’re taking up a collection after this,” referring to the pressing need for improvements.

Later, the president just shook his head when a local official said that some of the equipment still in use dates to the early 1900s.