President Joe Biden on Monday signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law, his second major legislative accomplishment as president following the coronavirus relief package earlier this year, and one Democrats are hoping will lift his shaky political standing ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Biden hailed the bill as “proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results.”
The White House lawn was filled with union workers, several of whom delivered remarks, as well as Democratic and Republican mayors, governors and lawmakers for the president’s bill signing ceremony.
The event was also attended by several Republican lawmakers who were involved in drafting the legislation, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), who delivered remarks.
“How many times have we heard that bipartisanship isn’t possible anymore or that important policy can only happen on a party line? Our legislation proves the opposite,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
“To paraphrase one of my favorite former vice presidents: It’s a big effin’ deal,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the White House, calling back to Biden’s 2010 remarks about the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
On the campaign trail, Biden often promised that his deal-making skills and relationships with Republicans during the time he served in the Senate would lead to bipartisan progress while in office. On infrastructure, at least, he delivered where his predecessor, Donald Trump, could not.
Nevertheless, Portman, the retiring Republican whom Sinema called a close partner in negotiations, thanked Trump, saying he “furthered discussion” on infrastructure.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide $1.2 trillion in federal funding over the next eight years aimed at overhauling the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, ports, utilities, internet access and more. The bill will make the biggest investment in America’s infrastructure system in decades, creating jobs and bolstering the economy in the process.
The effects of the bill won’t be felt by voters right away, however. It takes time to build things like roads and bridges, and in some cases, even longer for the federal government to award contracts. But the payoff for Democrats could continue down the line. Democratic lawmakers are already hitting the campaign trail, going after Republicans who voted against the bill.
Biden is also hitting the road this week to sell the bill to the public, beginning with stops in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Polls have shown that the president’s approval rating weakened substantially in recent months, and a popular bipartisan achievement could blunt that trend.
Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer made a point to emphasize that the infrastructure bill is only one part of the administration’s agenda. Biden is still seeking to make law the second half of his Build Back Better agenda ― the social spending and climate package.
“This bill, as significant as it is, as historic as it is, is part one of two,” Harris said Monday. “To lower costs and cut taxes for working families and to tackle the climate crisis at its core, Congress must also pass the Build Back Better Act.”
The more than $1 trillion in spending over 10 years is aimed at lowering the cost of health care, child care and other measures.
Pelosi said at the signing event that the House hopes to pass its version of the Build Back Better Act this week. That bill isn’t likely to get any GOP support, and Democrats have struggled to unify around the measure and pass it on their own.