Biden resets infrastructure focus in Michigan's rustbelt

President warns US is at 'risk of losing our edge' in his pitch to pass domestic agenda

A week after his domestic agenda faced a setback in the US Congress, President Joe Biden looked to reset focus in the battleground state of Michigan to fight for his infrastructure and social-spending bills.

Last week, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi scrapped plans for a vote on the $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill already passed by the Senate after progressives said they’d oppose it without a pledge from Democratic senators to pass the second bill.

Mr Biden on Tuesday met virtually with 11 members of the US House of Representatives to discuss a path forward for his domestic agenda, the White House said.

Progressives and moderate Democrats remain some ways off in terms of a price tag for the social-spending bill that would invest in health care and the fight against climate change.

Mr Biden discussed a range of $1.9-$2.2 trillion down from $3.5 trillion in hopes of finding a breakthrough, Bloomberg reported.

White House officials view Rust Belt states like Michigan, where harsh winters punish roads and bridges, as politically beneficial venues to promote the benefits of the president’s programs.

The state is set to receive at least $7.3 billion for its highways, $563 million for bridges, and $1 billion for other infrastructure under the president’s proposals, according to a White House memo released on Monday night.

Mr Biden made a direct appeal to blue-collar Americans after his tour of a local labour union training site in Howell, Michigan.

The jobs that the two bills would create "are jobs that can't be outsourced," he said. "We're going to put plumbers and pipe-fitters back to work replacing lead pipes in America so families and children can drink clean water."

Flint, roughly 110 kilometres from Howell, declared a state of emergency in 2015 after lead contaminated the city's drinking water.

Mr Biden also underscored the US's decline in global standing.

"For a long time, America set the pace across the entire globe," he said. "But then something happened. We slowed up. We stopped investing in ourselves."

The US now ranks 13th in the world for infrastructure, 23rd in women in the workforce and 35th out of 37 major countries in investing in early childhood education, he said in his pitch to get both bills passed.

He warned that failure to do so would see the US lag behind its competitors.

"We're at risk of losing our edge as a nation," he said. "To oppose these investments is to be complicit in America's decline."

- Bloomberg contributed to this report

Updated: October 5th 2021, 9:44 PM
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