HOWELL, Mich. - President Joe Biden renewed his calls for Washington to approve his "Build Back Better" plan and infrastructure agenda Tuesday afternoon in Howell, Michigan.
"We’re at risk of losing our edge as a nation," Biden said. "Our infrastructure used to be the best in the world. Literally, not figuratively. "
Biden noted the country has fallen behind comparable countries when it comes to providing safe infrastructure, early childhood education and other measures that support a strong economy.
Biden said his proposed agendas are not about "left versus right" as lawmakers continue to debate them on Capitol Hill.
The president said his first proposed bill focuses on infrastructure spending as such to rebuild roads, highways and airports as well as increase broadband access and expand public transportation. He added this plan calls for "good union jobs" with workers making a livable wage.
"We’re not going to ease up," he continued. "We have to invest in resilience."
Biden said his second proposed bill — the "Build Back Better" plan— will invest in people. It would include Americans getting two years of free preschool plus two years of free community college. Millions of families would be eligible for expanded child care subsidies. And more federal financial aid would be available for low-income college students.
It also includes tax cuts for families with children, increasing workforce training and creating clean energy jobs.
Biden gave his remarks in the Michigan district of moderate Democratic lawmaker Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who has urged him to promote his proposals more aggressively to the public. The pair appeared together Tuesday at a union training center in Howell, located about 55 miles northwest of Detroit.
Howell is located in the historically conservative Livingston County, despite it being represented by Slotkin. The district was narrowly carried by Republican Donald Trump in 2020.
The visit was part of an effort to help secure moderates’ votes. Next to Biden, the Democrats with the most on the line over the shape and success of his spending plans are House members from swing districts whose reelections are essential if his party is to retain control of Congress.
Meanwhile, negotiations have continued on Capitol Hill over the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate, as well as the broader $3.5 trillion package of social programs, backed by Democrats and linked with the infrastructure bill.
Lawmakers have been grappling with disagreements and now are in a tangle of legislating, particularly among progressive and moderate Democrats.
Progressives have balked at paring down the size of the $3.5 trillion social package — which aims to boost spending on the nation’s safety net, health and environmental programs — and have refused to vote for the infrastructure bill if the other bill shrinks.
Moderate Democrats are pushing for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to get a House vote first and some are wary about the size of the massive social spending bill. Considerable attention has been focused on winning over two key moderate senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
The president held a virtual meeting with 12 progressive House members on Monday and plans a similar session with moderates later in the week. The drama in Washington has also left Biden eager to hit the road and try to shift the conversation away from the price tag to the benefits of the legislation.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that after Biden spent considerable time in recent days deep in the messy negotiations over the bills, "now it’s also important to remind people, as the sausage-making has been kind of the dominant storyline for the last few weeks, what this is all about. Why he’s fighting so hard for it."
Slotkin supports the $1 trillion infrastructure bill but prefers passing it in the House before negotiating the $3.5 trillion package of social programs. She has indicated that she may vote to approve the broader bill sooner if it is fiscally responsible and can make a difference for families, her aides said, but she is not a guaranteed yes — which she planned to tell Biden on Tuesday.
"To be honest, it was hard for me to understand why leadership decided in the first place to tie the two bills together," Slotkin recently told The Detroit News. "That’s not how we normally operate. It’s not my preference."
A series of crises, from Afghanistan to COVID-19, along with the complex legislative process for part of Biden’s "Build Back Better" agenda has hampered the White House’s ability to promote the massive spending package or even say definitively what will be in the final version.
FILE - President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Aug. 6, 2021, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)
Polling suggests that elements in the bill such as expanded child care opportunities and infrastructure projects are popular with large parts of the public. But even some of the White House’s closest allies have worried that the administration has not done enough to sell it.
Biden will land at the Capital Region International Airport in Lansing by approximately 1:20 p.m. local time and deliver remarks at the union center around 3:35 p.m.
This will be Biden’s fourth visit to Michigan since taking office. He made visits to Traverse City and Dearborn in the previous months, celebrating U.S. vaccination progress and directing focus to the work of electric vehicles. He also toured Pfizer's facility in Portage, where the COVID-19 vaccine is manufactured.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati and Los Angeles.