Washington - A giddy President Joe Biden on Saturday hailed congressional passage of a long-delayed $1trillion infrastructure bill as a "once in a generation" investment and predicted a broader social safety net plan will be approved despite tense negotiations.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appeared in the White House State Dining Room about 12 hours after moderate and progressive Democrats in the House of Representative over came internal bickering and delivered the president his biggest legislative win thus far. "Finally, infrastructure week," Biden said with a chuckle.
"I'm so happy to say that - infrastructure week!" The president's comment referred to a running joke in recentyears after Biden's Republican predecessor Donald Trump declaredhttps "Infrastructure week" in 2018 but was unable to pass a billafter multiple tries during his presidency. The bipartisan bill's passage gives Biden a jolt of good news sobering election losses for his Democratic party thisweek and a drop in his approval ratings. Referring to thelosses, Biden said they showed American people "want us todeliver."
"I think the one message that came across was - 'getsomething done. It's time to get something done - stoptalking,'" said Biden. The United Steelworkers union welcomed the bill's passage. "The House has passed the #InfrastructureBill, which wouldprovide roughly $1 trillion for upgrading the nation’s criticalinfrastructure. This is a big freakin' deal for us becauseSteelworkers supply America in so many ways!" the union tweeted. The bill had been caught up for months in bitter fightingbetween Democrats and the impasse had raised questions aboutBiden's effectiveness. With Biden making multiple phone calls to lawmakers urging acompromise, an agreement was worked out late on Friday for theHouse to vote by Nov. 15 on Biden's proposed $1.75 trillionBuild Back Better social safety net plan. This allowed lawmakers to go forward on the infrastructurebill and it passed with backing from 215 Democrats, and in amove that annoyed the conservative right, 13 Republicans helpedprovide the margin of victory. A half dozen progressive Democrats voted no. Biden said that in his last-gasp negotiations with Democratsto try to get the bill passed, he urged them, "Let's bereasonable."
"Last night we proved we can, on one big item, we delivered," he said of the bill, which includes tens of billions in investments in road, rail, public transport and broadband. Biden was in an upbeat mood in taking questions fromreporters, at one point playfully putting his hands over hiseyes to pick out a journalist to call on. He said he will sign the bipartisan bill "soon" in a formalsigning ceremony that highlights all the people who worked onit, Democrats and Republicans alike. He plans to visit some ports next week to promote the billand Americans should see the impacts in coming months, he said,offering Democrats something to campaign on as they try to headoff losses in next year's congressional elections. The infrastructure bill will create "blue collar" jobs modernizing roads and bridges, and transform the transportationsystem, Biden said. The "vast majority" of the jobs created willnot require a college degree, he said. Americans "will see the effects of this bill probablystarting within the next two to three months," he said.