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Biden secures bipartisan win with infrastructure vote

President Biden holds his hands up and looks ahead
President Biden delivers remarks on the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill at the White House on Saturday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

President Biden on Saturday marked a major step forward on the rocky path toward enacting his sweeping economic agenda, hailing the passage of bipartisan infrastructure legislation while urging his party to also enact another measure to expand the social safety net and fight climate change.

“Finally, the sausage is made,” he said at the White House with palpable relief after months of negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The infrastructure measure, which Biden described as a “monumental step forward,” includes more than $1 trillion for roads, bridges, broadband internet access, clean drinking water and other projects.

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But it also reflects the fulfillment of one of Biden’s campaign promises — that as someone with decades of experience in Washington, he could bring compromise and normalcy back to a country paralyzed by partisan bickering.

A cadre of Republicans in both the House and the Senate backed the infrastructure measure, and it received near-unanimous support from Democrats.

Biden’s infrastructure plan passed late Friday in a bipartisan House vote, but Democratic negotiations continued to delay his social spending and climate bill.

Biden encouraged lawmakers to explain to skeptical voters that “there’s not enough money for this or there’s too much money for that, but overall this has been a gigantic benefit,” the kind of glass-half-full argument that has become rare in an age of increasing polarization.

The victory was also an opportunity for Biden to poke fun at his predecessor, former President Trump, though not by name.

Biden began his remarks with a Trump-era phrase — “infrastructure week” — that became emblematic of the former president’s failed promises to invest in infrastructure during his four years in office. “I’m so happy to say that,” Biden said and chuckled.

He said the legislation would help level the economic playing field by creating more jobs for people without college degrees.

“For all of you at home, who feel left behind and forgotten in an economy that’s changing so rapidly, this bill is for you,” he said.

The House vote came days after Democrats lost the governor’s office in Virginia and scraped by in New Jersey with disappointing results that convinced the party that voters needed to see progress on Biden’s agenda.

“They want us to deliver, they want us to deliver, they want us to deliver,” Biden said. “Last night we proved we can. On one big item, we delivered.”

After years of official inaction and failed promises on infrastructure, President Biden unveils a plan to upgrade public works and tackle climate change.

Biden said he plans to hold a signing ceremony soon, with both Democrats and Republicans.

Despite the victory, Biden is entering a delicate moment for his agenda and his party. Progressive Democrats reluctantly agreed to pass the infrastructure measure on Friday while holding off on the safety net legislation until later this month on a leap of faith that moderates will back it then.

Failure would splinter Democrats on Capitol Hill and make it more unlikely that they will fulfill their campaign promises.

Biden said he was confident that he had the votes to pass the measure. Asked what gives him the confidence, he responded with a smile — “me.”

Negotiations over the safety net legislation have been difficult, and Biden’s original $3.5-trillion plan has already been slimmed down to $1.85 trillion. The measure would fund universal preschool, provide subsidies for child care and expand public healthcare. More money would be invested in clean energy tax credits.

“We’re now turning it around in a big way,” he said. “Any single element of this plan would be a fundamental change in America. But taken together, they’re truly consequential.”


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