Facing a deadlock in Congress, United States President Joe Biden on Tuesday travelled to the state of Michigan to sell his ambitious social spending and infrastructure proposals directly to the American public.
Biden’s signature $3.5-trillion spending and tax proposal and a $1-trillion infrastructure bill have hit roadblocks on Capitol Hill as members of the president’s Democratic Party have been unable to agree on the size and scope of his proposals.
“These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They’re about opportunity, versus decay,” Biden said during an address at a union training centre in Howell, Michigan, on Tuesday afternoon.
“To support these investments is to support a rise in America – Americans moving,” Biden said. “To oppose these investments is to be complicit in America’s decline.”
With public opinion polls showing a slide in his approval ratings, Biden faces a critical moment in his presidency – and failure to win passage of both bills could stall his agenda for the rest of his four-year term.
Biden sought to make a case for his spending plans by saying the investments would help support working-class families and make the US more competitive globally. Automakers in Michigan are betting on a significant shift towards electric vehicles – something that both bills would help drive.
“Here in Michigan, we need to make sure that American autoworkers lead the world electric vehicles,” Biden said on Tuesday alongside Representative Elissa Slotkin, whose congressional district the president was visiting.
Slotkin is among several leading Democrats who have urged Biden to promote his proposals more forcefully to the American public.
Biden needs moderates in Congress to go along with his high-priced spending plans. One key moderate, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, has proposed dialling back the proposed $3.5-trillion, 10-year budget plan to $1.5 trillion.
White House Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters travelling with the president that Biden and Democrats are considering what’s known as means testing – or applying income limits to eligibility – to lower the cost of the proposed programmes. Those programmes include universal pre-kindergarten education and two free years of community college.
Back in Washington, DC, negotiations continue between White House officials and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to find a path forward to pass both bills.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top House Democrat, has been unable to win support for the passing of the $1-trillion infrastructure bill from a large faction of progressives until there is a deal on the larger $3.5-trillion budget package that is being blocked by Manchin in the Senate.
Biden has been holding meetings at the White House with small groups of legislators.
He met on Monday with leading progressive legislators, including Representative Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the House progressive caucus, while on Tuesday before he left for Michigan, Biden met with House moderates.