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Biden pitches spending plans in New Jersey ahead of key week for Hill negotiations

By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

President Joe Biden went to New Jersey to promote his economic agenda on Monday, amid a major week of negotiations with Democrats to pass portions of his sweeping, multi-trillion dollar agenda.

The visit offered Biden a chance to pitch both his plans — a bipartisan infrastructure package and a social safety net package — ahead of his travel to Europe for the Group of 20 conference and the United Nations Climate Conference.

Biden spoke about both packages Monday afternoon at a NJ Transit maintenance facility in Kearny, recalling his frequent travel aboard Amtrak trains between Washington, DC, and Delaware during his time in Congress.

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Biden said that the infrastructure bill is “about rebuilding the arteries of America” and spoke at length about the Portal Bridge in New Jersey, referring to it as the “Achilles’ heel” of the northeast corridor.

He also reiterated his frequent argument about the pieces of legislation, saying, “These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits one American against another. These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They’re about expanding opportunity, not opportunity denied. They’re about leading the world or continuing to let the world pass us by.”

The President also called the child tax credit — a key component of the social safety net package that is expected to be scaled down — a “tax cut.”

“We never have an argument when we talk about the wealthy. This is a tax cut. It changes the lives of the American people,” Biden said.

The President also visited an elementary school in Plainfield to highlight universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds offered there, much like the provision laid out in his agenda. Passing Biden’s economic agenda, the White House said, will enable the North Plainfield School District to expand its free preschool to all 3-year-old children.

At the school, the President called the pre-kindergarten program a “fundamental shift” for early childhood learning.

“We’re going to make sure it’s available to everybody,” Biden told school leadership gathered in the classroom.

The President’s trip will include several New Jersey lawmakers, including New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who is up for reelection next week.

The President leaves for his foreign trip on Thursday, which includes a stop in Rome for the G20 and a stop in Glasgow for the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, known as COP26.

Biden told reporters on Monday morning that, “with the grace of God and the goodwill of neighbors,” a deal will be made before the trip, adding, “It’d be very positive to get it done before the trip.”

Democratic leaders are targeting a vote on the infrastructure proposal as soon as Wednesday. However, that will only be possible if a detailed agreement is reached on the climate and economic package. But, if accomplished, that vote would time out in a way that would give Biden a win the day before he departs for Rome.

Several key sticking points remain to be resolved in a matter of days.

The President sounded optimistic about the future of negotiations following his Sunday meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and moderate West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, telling reporters Monday morning, “It went well. A few more things to work out, but it went well.”

And Monday afternoon, Manchin told CNN there will be a deal on a “conceptual framework” for Biden’s social safety net package this week. He added that he’s concerned about expanding benefits and pushed back on a Medicare expansion.

Asked whether Biden would consider delaying his Thursday departure for Europe if talks on his economic agenda were still ongoing, principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday Biden would be proceeding as planned.

“Even if it doesn’t happen before he leaves, the President can do the work that he needs to do aboard like many presidents before him have done,” Jean-Pierre said aboard Air Force One en route to New Jersey.

This story has been updated with additional details from Biden’s trip to New Jersey.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Allie Malloy, Betsy Klein, Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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