Biden Heads to Wisconsin to Sell His Infrastructure Deal

The president cast the deal as the largest federal infrastructure effort since President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill creating the interstate highway system 65 years ago.

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Biden pitches his infrastructure deal in Wisconsin.

President Biden will tell Wisconsin residents that the plan will improve their quality of life.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

June 29, 2021, 10:43 a.m. ET

President Biden began a national tour in Wisconsin on Tuesday to pitch voters on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement that the president and centrist senators announced last week.

Mr. Biden used his speech in La Crosse, Wis., to highlight several aspects of the agreement — which would increase federal spending on physical infrastructure by $579 billion, the largest such increase in decades. He portrayed the deal as one that would improve quality of life for Wisconsin residents, including through more deployment of broadband internet in rural areas, where the White House says about 35 percent of families lack reliable internet.

“This bipartisan breakthrough is a great deal for the American people,” Mr. Biden said, predicting the agreement would produce jobs that did not require a college degree. “This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”

Mr. Biden promised to replace the nearly 80,000 water service lines in Milwaukee that are made of lead, and he cast spending on road and bridge repairs as a means to reduce traffic for drivers across the country, which he said amounted to a $1,000 annual loss for the average American because of lost time.

The president and his aides have aggressively made the case in recent days that the agreement would be a large step forward for the nation on key infrastructure areas, as part of a delicate effort to sell Democrats in the House and Senate on the merits of a deal that stopped well short of Mr. Biden’s initial $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan. The agreement leaves out entire categories of spending on fighting climate change and investing in home health care for older and disabled Americans.

The president cast the deal as the largest federal infrastructure effort since President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill creating the interstate highway system 65 years ago. “This is a generational investment — generational investment — to modernize our infrastructure,” he said, “creating millions of good-paying jobs.”

The tour is also meant to reassure Republicans that Mr. Biden is committed to the agreement. Mr. Biden told reporters on Thursday that he would not sign the bipartisan deal if it was not accompanied by a second, partisan bill containing much of the rest of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda, which prompted a frantic weekend for the White House as some Republicans questioned whether the deal could survive.

On Sunday, Mr. Biden released a statement saying he had not meant to imply he would veto the bipartisan agreement, promising to campaign aggressively for its passage. That worried progressives who are counting on the second, partisan bill’s passage.

In a nod to the complicated politics of the two economic bills, Mr. Biden also used the Wisconsin speech to highlight the large swath of the second half of his agenda, which was excluded from the agreement, including investments in housing, child care, tax credits for parents that are meant to fight child poverty and large investments in public education.

“I’m going to continue to make the case that critical investments are still needed,” he said.

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