President Biden signs $1tn US infrastructure bill into law

New measure is expected to create jobs across the country

US President Joe Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday at a ceremony that drew Democrats and some Republicans who were instrumental in passing the legislation.

The measure is expected to create jobs across the country by disbursing billions of dollars to state and local governments to fix crumbling bridges and roads and by also expanding broadband internet access to millions of Americans.

“My message to the American people is: America is moving again. And your life is going to change for the better,” Mr Biden said.

“I am signing a law that is truly consequential because we made our democracy deliver for the people,” he said.

Members of Congress and governors from both political parties as well as union and business leaders attended the ceremony on the White House South Lawn to emphasise the bipartisanship of the achievement.

“Too often in Washington, the reason we don’t get things done is because we insist on getting everything we want. With this law, we focused on getting things done,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden signed an executive order before the ceremony directing that US-made materials be given priority in infrastructure projects, the White House said. It also established a task force made up of top Cabinet officials to guide implementation of the legislation.

The bill had become a partisan lightning rod, with Republicans complaining that Democrats who control the House of Representatives delayed its passage to ensure party support for Mr Biden's $1.75tn “Build Back Better” social policy and climate change legislation, which Republicans reject.

The 13 House Republicans who broke ranks with their party to support the measure have been criticised by former president Donald Trump and some of their own colleagues.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who voted in favour of the bill, told Louisville, Kentucky's WHAS radio last week that he was not attending the signing ceremony because he has “other things I've got to do".

Mr Biden needs some positive momentum as he struggles to address rising inflation and high petrol prices that have contributed to a drop in his approval ratings.

The Democratic president and his party are eager to show they can move forward on his agenda before the November 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans will seek to regain control of both chambers of Congress.

US consumer prices last week posted their biggest annual gain in 31 years, driven by surges in the cost of petrol and other goods. Republicans have pounced on inflation worries, arguing that the increase reflects Mr Biden's sweeping spending agenda.

A Washington Post-ABC poll released at the weekend showed 70 per cent of Americans view the economy negatively, despite falling unemployment and rising wages. About half of Americans and political independents blame the president for rising prices.

Mr Biden's economic advisers say rising inflation is a global issue related to the Covid-19 pandemic, not a result of the administration's programmes.

Amid this backdrop of pessimism, the White House seeks to sell Americans on the necessity of the infrastructure legislation and its new spending on road and bridges, ports and airports, drinking water, broadband access and electric charging stations across the country.

The president will kick off this sales pitch in earnest this week, with trips to New Hampshire on Tuesday and Michigan on Wednesday.

The Build Back Better package includes provisions on childcare and preschool, elder care, health care, prescription drug pricing and immigration.

The White House is hoping House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring the bill to a vote this week. That will only be a first step, however, as the Senate has not yet taken up the legislation and Democratic divisions could threaten its chances in that chamber.

“This is a great accomplishment and there’s more to come,” Ms Pelosi said at the White House on Monday.

“Hopefully this week we will be passing Build Back Better.”

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: November 16th 2021, 7:22 PM
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