Fresh off signing the historic $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law, President Joe Biden hit the road Tuesday with his sales pitch, visiting a New Hampshire bridge in disrepair and hoping to translate the legislation into real terms for Americans.
With money from the complex legislative package doled out to states, cities and specific projects through a complicated series of formulas and grant programs — some more immediate, others taking years to come to fruition — Biden and Democrats are eager to take credit for their major, bipartisan legislative achievement.
To that end, Democratic members of Congress are planning to hold 1,000 events before the end of the year to make clear to Americans “what we’re doing in this package,” according to the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York.
Every Democratic legislator will hold five events over the next six weeks, he said.
While the law itself and its individual components — rebuilding and repairs bridges, ports and roads, expanding broadband internet, and more — are widely popular, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Americans aren’t giving Biden credit for championing the law and getting it through Congress. The president’s approval rating is at an all-time low at 41%.
Part of the messaging problem for Biden is the bureaucratic, complicated nature of the federal government.
It has proven difficult for the administration to point to specific projects that will definitely receive funding from the law, since much of where the dollars will end up will result from lengthy application processes, such as a state applying for money to replace a specific bridge.
Still, Biden has pointed to some specifics as projects likely to get funded, such as an infamous bridge connecting Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, or expanding high-speed internet access in Ohio.
Before signing the bill Monday, the president said his message to the American people was “America is moving again, and your life is going ot change for the better.”
“Today, I want you to know we hear you and we see you,” Biden said during a bipartisan signing ceremony on the lawn of the White House. “The bill I’m about to sign on lawn is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results.”
His trip to New Hampshire Tuesday will take him to the NH 175 bridge, which spans over the Pemigewasset River in Woodstock.
The bridge, according to the White House, has been on the state’s “red list” of bridges in poor condition since 2013. It’s one of 215 bridges and over 698 miles of highway in poor condition in the Granite State.
Much of the federal dollars provided by the law will, though, go directly to states whose leaders will decide how to use them.
New Hampshire is expected to receive $1.1 billion for federal-aid highways and $225 million for bridges, according to the White House.
Some governors have outlined broad buckets — while others have started pointing to specific impacts.
On Monday, New York’s Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul said the law would allow authorities to put off any subway fare hikes or reductions in service.
The legislation includes $110 billion for highways, bridges and roads; $65 billion to upgrade the nation’s power grid; $39 billion for public transit; $65 billion to expand high-speed internet, targeting rural areas, and low-income communities; and $55 billion to invest in clean water, with money funneled to replace lead pipes and address water contamination.
With so much money, there is a lot of potential to reap the political benefits — particularly when recent polling has Democrats fearing a drubbing in next year’s midterm elections.
According to a White House official, Biden’s trip to New Hampshire Tuesday “marks the start of an administration-wide effort where the president, vice president, and Cabinet members will travel across the country promoting” the law and “communicating directly with the American people about how it will change their lives for the better.”
The official said they’d travel to “red states, blue states, big cities, small towns, rural areas, tribal communities, and more” and would “underscore what the law means in tangible terms.”
But many of the states Biden, Harris and other officials are visiting in the next week have a common theme: They are political battlegrounds important to presidential elections.
The president planned to travel to Michigan on Wednesday, and Harris to Ohio on Friday. Other states Cabinet officials would visit included Arizona, Georgia and Texas, the White House official said.
The public relations blitz would also hit the airwaves, according to the official.
Maloney, the congresswoman who is tasked with protecting Democrats’ slim majority in 2022, said during their events, members of Congress will tout both the bipartisan infrastructure package and the president’s yet-to-pass “Build Back Better” social bill.
“We are going to get it done,” she said. “We are going to tell them we did it. And we are going to tell them who the other side is.”