REHOBOTH BEACH (Del. (AP) — He has been here before.
President Joe Biden doesn’t need to look any further back than his time as vice president to grasp the challenges that lie ahead in promoting his new $1 trillion infrastructure dealAmerican people by getting money out quickly enough so they feel an impact.
If President Barack ObamaObama’s administration passed a massive stimulus bill in 2009. However, there was criticism from the public that it wasn’t fast enough to reach the economy. Obama also later admitted to having failed to communicate the positive effects of the legislation to Americans.
Obama’s biggest mistake, he said in 2012, was thinking that the job of the presidency was “just about getting the policy right” rather than telling “a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose.”
Biden set out to create such an epic story on his own when he took a victory lap Saturday after his infrastructure bill cleared the Congress, notching a hard-fought win on a $1.2 trillion piece of legislation that he says will tangibly improve Americans’ lives in the months and years to come.
The Democratic president called it a “a once-in-a-generation investment” to tackle a range of challenges — crumbling roads and bridges, gaps in access to affordable internet, water tainted by lead pipes, homes and cities ill-prepared to cope with increasingly frequent extreme weather conditions.
The end of a particularly difficult weekAfter surprise defeats in nationwide elections for his party, passing the legislation brought some relief to an already troubled president. poll numbers have droppedAmericans are still frustrated by the coronavirus pandemic an uneven economic recovery
The legislative victory presents Biden with a number of problems. He must promote the new deal while also continuing to advocate for the long-awaited legislation. $1.85 trillion social safety net and climate billIt would significantly increase the effectiveness of family, climate, and health programs.
His sagging poll numbers show that Biden has serious stakes.
Priorities USA, a Democratic big money group, warned in a memo this past week that “voters are frustrated, skeptical, and tired — of COVID, of economic hardship, of school closings, of higher prices and stagnant wages, of unaffordable prescription drugs and health care and more.”
“Without results (and effectively communicating those results), voters will punish the party in power,” chairman Guy Cecil said.
The White House plans to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to sell the infrastructure bill. Biden will be traveling across the United States to discuss the impact of the legislation in an attempt to rectify past messaging errors.
He’ll visit a port in Baltimore on Wednesday and promises a splashy signing ceremony for the infrastructure bill when legislators are back in town.
Additionally, the administration has deployed the Transportation, Energy, Interior, and Commerce department heads, along with the Environmental Protection Agency administrator and top White House staff aides, to discuss the bill in national and local media, and Spanish-language and African American press. And they’re putting out explainers across the departments’ digital platforms to help Americans better understand what’s in the bill.
But even as White House officials speak about what’s in the bill, they’ll also have to ensure the money gets spent. It’s a challenge with which Biden is intimately familiar, having overseen the implementation of the 2009 stimulus as vice president. Then, despite promises to prioritize “shovel-ready projects,” challenges with permitting and other issues led to delays, prompting Obama to joke in 2011 that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”
Democrats felt at the time that the party didn’t do enough to remind Americans how they had improved their lives, and ultimately allowed Republicans to frame the election conversation around government overreach. In 2012, Democrats experienced massive losses during the midterm elections. They lost control of both the House of Representatives and a small number of Senate seats.
Biden for his part insisted that Americans would see the benefits of the infrastructure bill within two-three months. Pete Buttigieg (Transport Secretary) made it clear that certain projects were still waiting to be funded, while others like new chargers for electric vehicles and attempts to reconnect towns divided by the highways will likely take longer. In contrast to the 2009 stimulus, Buttigieg told NPR, Biden’s infrastructure bill is “about both the short-term and the long-term.”
“There will be work immediately, and for years to come,” he said.
While he’s selling the infrastructure bill as evidence that Democrats can deliver, Biden still will have to contend with ongoing dickering on the other big item on his agenda — the social spending bill.
The social spending bill is not like the infrastructure bill that passed with 19 Republicans’ support, and will face unified GOP opposition. Biden will therefore need all the Democratic votes in the Senate to bring it through the finish line. With the party’s moderate progressive factions squabbling over the details of the final bill, and two centrist holdouts — Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — opposed to many key progressive priorities, winning final passage of the second part of his agenda may be a much tougher puzzle to solve.
“Everybody agreed on infrastructure. You can always agree on whether or not build the roads and the bridges and create the water and sewage that you need and fix your rail and your ports,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., on Fox’s “Fox News Sunday.”
“But it’s something else again when you start getting into new stuff,” Clyburn said.