Biden signs $1.2 trillion US infrastructure bill into law

A second bill – Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan – is expected to be debated in Congress this week.

US President Joe Biden signs the 'Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act' on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington DC [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment plan into law at the White House, offering an optimistic outlook for the improving but still damaged US economy and claiming progress in his ambitious legislative agenda.

“My message to the American people is, America is moving again,” Biden said on Monday, promising the United States public that “your life is going to change for the better”.

Appearing on the White House lawn with a smattering of Republican legislators on hand, Biden hailed what could be the last show of bipartisanship in Washington ahead of the 2022 elections for Congress.

The president hopes to use the new investments in roads, bridges and electric vehicles to rebuild his popularity, which has taken a hit amid rising inflation and continuing challenges to the US from COVID-19.

Biden had promised as president to foster unity between the divided Democrats and Republicans in Congress to get things done for the good of the country. But his job approval rating among the American public has plummeted in recent months as the Democratic majority in Congress struggled to enact his proposals.

The infrastructure bill signed on Monday proved an exception to the partisan gridlock in Washington. Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate joined with Democrats in supporting the bill’s passage.

Confronting Biden’s sliding popularity, the White House plans to get him outside Washington, DC, to sell the win more broadly in coming days. He will go to New Hampshire on Tuesday to visit a bridge on the state’s “red list” for urgent repair.

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law represents a historic achievement at a time of deeply fractured US politics [File: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo]

Biden will visit General Motors’s electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit on Wednesday to promote the infrastructure bill’s investments in electric vehicle charging stations.

“We see this as is an opportunity because we know that the president’s agenda is quite popular,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday before the signing.

The outreach to voters can move “beyond the legislative process to talk about how this is going to help them. And we’re hoping that’s going to have an impact”.

But Biden’s larger $1.75 trillion budget package of tax hikes and social spending has been stalled amid Democratic infighting and staunch Republican opposition making its outlook uncertain.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she expects to win approval of the budget plan in the House this week, which would send the bill to the Senate for its consideration.

Biden needs support from Senator Joe Manchin, a centrist from West Virginia who holds a key vote among Democrats.

Senator Joe Manchin, right, attended President Joe Biden’s signing of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill but has been a roadblock to Biden’s larger $1.75 trillion budget plan [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

Positioning himself as a fiscal conservative, Manchin has raised concerns about additional government spending coming on top of the trillions in US spending already in the pipeline to address COVID-19.

Rising inflation in the US and worldwide is elevating concerns the US Federal Reserve and other central banks may have to raise interest rates, putting the brakes on economic growth following the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

White House Economic Adviser Brian Deese said on Sunday that rising prices are a global issue stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and not a result of Biden’s economic policies.

Administration officials are arguing that with higher taxes proposed to pay for Biden’s social agenda, the budget bill would not add to inflationary pressures.

Biden went to the Port of Baltimore last week to highlight how his administration is addressing supply chain restrictions, a concern for working people dealing with newly higher energy and food prices.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies