Biden admin’s “focus” on new investments; White House plans event in Madison
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Biden administration is closing out a three-week push to highlight the benefits of infrastructure investments in local communities by awarding nearly $300 million to help repair or replace more than a dozen bridges across the country.
Events in four states on Thursday will mark the end of the beginning phase of a more expansive White House push heading into President Joe Biden’s expected 2024 reelection race to remind voters of his accomplishments.
During the administration’s “Investing in America” tour, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other officials held more than 50 events across 25 states at projects benefiting from the landmark infrastructure, climate and high-tech manufacturing laws passed during the Democratic president’s first two years in office.
There will be much more talk about Biden’s record to come.
“This is the focus of the next year-plus,” White House chief of staff Jeff Zients, who got the job in February with a mandate to oversee implementation of the massive laws, told The Associated Press “The priority is implementation, execution and communicating with the American people how this is making people’s lives better.”
On Thursday, Harris will attend an event awarding $72 million to rebuild a key bridge carrying I-395 from Virginia into Washington. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will be in upstate New York to announce $21 million to rehabilitate the Castleton-on-Hudson Bridge, Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt will announce $51.2 million to replace six bridges in rural South Carolina, and White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu will celebrate $15.1 million to help replace six bridges leading into Madison, Wisconsin.
Zients said the officials’ travel is part of the White House emphasis on “telling the story” of Biden’s record, adding that “the best way to tell the story is to go where things are happening.”
While such stories may get overshadowed on a national scale by other developments, the White House believes the officials’ visits and the milestones they mark will resonate with the communities that benefit from them. As projects go from the drawing board to shovels in the ground to ribbon-cuttings, Zients said, the administration is planning to be there to celebrate each step, “local community by local community.”
The project in Madison will replace two-lane bridges along the John Nolen Drive causeway carry about 45,000 vehicles a day, according to Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office. They are 48 to 55 years old and their structural integrity is considered poor. The investment will include a separate path for cyclists and pedestrians to improve safety.
The sales pitch to Americans comes as the prospects for new legislation of similar impact are minimal now that Republicans control the House and as Washington appears set on a path toward crisis in the coming months over raising the nation’s debt limit and keeping the government open.
Zients added that the White House push is also about drawing a contrast with congressional Republicans, many of whom voted against key pieces of Biden’s legislative record. It’s a strategy Biden deployed effectively in the 2022 midterms, when Democrats saw a better-than-expected outcome.
“When people understand the choices they face, President Biden’s vision and approach and his results speak for themselves - and we win,” Zients said.
Biden, 80, has not formally launched his 2024 bid, but he has said he intends to run - and has cleared the Democratic field of significant challengers. An announcement is expected in the coming months.
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