Biden boosts infrastructure, climate change plans in Mich. GOP stronghold

By: - October 5, 2021 5:56 pm

President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, en route to New Castle County Airport in New Castle, Delaware. | Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe via Flickr Public Domain

Speaking at a Howell union training facility on Tuesday, President Joe Biden marked his Michigan visit by touting two investment bills that he said would act as a “blue-collar blueprint” for revitalizing America’s infrastructure.

The Democratic president is still negotiating with members of Congress on the two bills — a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and Biden’s $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” plan.

Both would make America more resilient by investing in the nation’s infrastructure, workforce, environment and more, Biden said during his speech at the International Union of Operating Engineers training facility Tuesday.

“These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another,” Biden said. “These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They’re about opportunity versus decay.

“… To support these investments is to create a rising America, an America is moving. To oppose these investments is to be complicit in America’s decline. To support these bills is to pursue a broader vision of our nation and to oppose them is to accept a very cramped view of our future.”

If the current slowdown in infrastructure investment continues, “we risk losing our edge as a nation,” Biden said.

Key parts of Biden’s Build Back Better plan:

  • Universal preschool
  • 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave
  • Two years of free community college
  • Letting Medicare negotiate drug prices rather than pharma companies
  • Reduce health insurance premiums
  • Expand Medicare coverage
  • Expand home care for older and disabled Americans
  • Bolster affordable, resilient housing via tax credits and government financing
  • Extend the Child Tax Credit expansion to reduce child poverty
  • Extend increase to earned-income tax credit for workers without children
  • Investments in job training programs and workforce development
  • Create more clean energy jobs
  • Enlist a Civilian Climate Corps
  • Invest in retaining more teachers, particularly teachers of color
  • Expand free school meals to additional 9.3 million children
  • Investments in school infrastructure upgrades

The Democratic president also acknowledged the hundreds of protestors that lined the roadway to Biden’s speech location in heavily Republican Livingston County. Some held “F-ck Joe Biden” signs and flags falsely claiming former President Donald Trump did not lose the 2020 election.

After the speech, Biden told reporters that seeing the Trump signs outside his event “makes me smile. I get more pumped up,” per the pool report.

Biden said the funding proposals will be paid for in part by making very wealthy Americans “pay their fair share,” repeating his promise that “no one making under $400,000 a year will see a penny of their taxes go up.”

The president was joined by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) on his tour of the union training facility prior to his speech.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge also made a Michigan trip this week to tout Biden’s agenda, joining Gilchrist, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Monday for a tour of Detroit senior housing complexes.

Biden’s last Michigan visit was in May, when the president touted electric vehicle development at a Dearborn Ford plant.

At numerous points, Biden drew the speech back to the point of resiliency in the face of worsening climate change.

He said strong investments can help America “meet the moment” of the climate crisis, particularly in areas like Michigan that have experienced historic weather events in recent years.

Key proposals in the infrastructure bill:

  • $73 billion toward updating and expanding the power grid
  • $66 billion to maintaining, modernizing and expanding rail service (mostly Amtrak)
  • $65 billion for expanded broadband internet service
  • $55 billion for clean drinking water
  • $50 billion toward strengthening infrastructure against climate change, cyberattacks
  • $42 billion for ports and airports
  • $39 billion to modernize and expand public transit systems
  • $21 billion for energy job creation, cleaning up soil and groundwater and environmental justice
  • $11 billion in highway and pedestrian safety programs
  • $7.5 billion toward new electric vehicle charger network
  • $7.5 billion for zero-emission/low-emission buses and ferries

“Here in Michigan, you all know the costs of extreme weather,” Biden said, pointing to extensive flooding along Detroit highways this summer. He said creating clean energy jobs through targeted investments could help mitigate climate change as well as maintain a competitive and modern workforce.

“I want those jobs here in Michigan, not halfway around the world,” he said.

Democrats’ separate $3.5 trillion proposal to invest in “human infrastructure” would dole out money for paid family and medical leave, child care, affordable housing, universal prekindergarten, broadened Medicare benefits and more.

That proposal, however, is unlikely to have any GOP support and centrists U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have so far withheld support.

Biden met with moderate U.S. House members earlier Tuesday via video call in an attempt to win support for the legislation. He later told members of the press that the moderates are on the same page as he is.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.