US President Joe Biden hit the road yesterday to try to shift the spotlight from the wrangling within his Democratic Party over his huge social spending package to its potential benefits for a wide swath of Americans.
quabbling Democratic moderates and progressives dealt Mr Biden a major setback last week when they failed to move ahead with his proposed $1trn (€863bn) infrastructure bill or the planned $3.5trn (€3trn) social spending bill, which could now face cuts.
The president was heading yesterday to Michigan “to continue rallying public support” for both initiatives, the White House said.
“He wants to go out there and talk about the components and the piece of these bills that will make people’s lives better,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.
Democrats fear that if they fail to pass the infrastructure bill, they could be punished by angry voters in next year’s congressional elections.
Rebuilding US infrastructure was one of Mr Biden’s key election promises.
The larger Build Back Better bill Mr Biden proposed includes childcare, housing and healthcare benefits, free community college tuition and clean energy subsidies, all of which the White House said would not increase the nation’s debt because they would be paid for by taxes
on the wealthy and corporations.
Before travelling to Michigan, Mr Biden planned to meet virtually with Democratic members of the House about the infrastructure bill and his Build Back Better agenda, according to the White House schedule.
That meeting was to be with moderate Democrats, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said, following a Monday meeting with progressives to discuss a less costly spending bill.
“He’s reaching out to Democrats all across the spectrum,” she told MSNBC in an interview yesterday.
“We’re converging on agreement here. We’re going to work through the details. We’re 99pc of the way there.”
Biden allies worry that his planned programmes, many of which opinion polls show are popular with a majority of Americans, have been lost in the legislative wrangling.
Michigan is an election battleground state that Mr Biden flipped from Republican to Democratic in 2020.
The White House said ageing infrastructure has slowed commutes for Michigan residents and that many lack access to broadband internet and childcare.
Mr Biden was travelling to Howell, a city of about 9,500 residents, roughly 90km west of Detroit, and had a visit scheduled at an International Union of Operating Engineers training facility.
The town sits in the highly competitive 8th congressional district. Voters there picked Donald Trump last year, but also returned Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin to Congress.
Ms Slotkin supports the $1trn roads-and-bridges bill
and has advocated for elements of the broader social-spending legislation, but said she would need to review the plan in full.
Progressive House Democrats have said they will not vote for the infrastructure bill until they get backing for Mr Biden’s social spending bill, whose price tag has caused some moderates to balk.
Mr Biden has said the size of the social spending bill will have to come down.