By Maegan Vazquez and Donald Judd, CNN
President Joe Biden visited Minnesota and Wisconsin on Wednesday, making a stop a dilapidated bridge that connects the two states to highlight how his administration will improve America’s infrastructure.
But in his prepared remarks, Biden started off by praising the strength of the Ukrainian people in the face of the Russian invasion of their country as he echoed portions of Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
During the visit to the Midwest, the President spoke in Superior, Wisconsin, where he highlighted funding from his signature infrastructure law, including $4.8 billion for Minnesota and $5.4 billion for Wisconsin. The visit was his first trip after the address.
Biden spent the majority of his remarks in Wisconsin discussing his domestic agenda, tying it to the Blatnik Memorial Bridge — a crucial link between Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior. The bridge has more than 33,000 vehicles travel across it each day, but because of the condition of the roughly 60-year-old structure, it has load restrictions that prohibit large trucks and other heavy vehicles from crossing it.
“As I announced last night — this year, we’re going to start fixing 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair. Your governor is going to use some of that funding to modernize one of the most important bridges in this region — the one you look out the window and see here,” Biden said.
The Biden administration estimates that Wisconsin has 979 bridges in poor condition, while Minnesota has 661. And both states will use some of that funding to repair Blatnik Bridge.
“Instead of infrastructure week, we’re going to have an infrastructure decade,” Biden said. “And now after years of talking about infrastructure, we’re finally getting it done.”
The President’s remarks Wednesday were the latest in a series of events the administration is holding to highlight infrastructure investments, including a trip to Ohio last month to unveil Great Lakes funding and a December announcement on funding for port infrastructure and development.
At the State of the Union address, Biden announced an initiative to repair 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges this year through funds from the infrastructure law.
“I’m announcing that this year we will start fixing over 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair,” Biden said Tuesday. “We’re done talking about infrastructure weeks. We’re now going to talk about an infrastructure decade.”
‘Putin was counting on being able to split up the United States’
Wednesday’s visit played out against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and warnings from Biden and other administration officials that the military offensive could increase in brutality in coming days.
The President discussed the invasion during his speech in Wisconsin and offered praise for Ukrainians, calling them “an amazing people” and pledging the US would “continue to aid the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and help ease their suffering in the process.”
Notably, Biden brought up that at the State of the Union address, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle rose in a show of support for Ukraine — a rare moment of bipartisan unity.
“Together, we sent an unmistakable signal to Ukraine and to the world, that we, the United States of America, stand with the Ukrainian people, we stand with them,” Biden said, condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “premeditated and unprovoked” attack on the neighboring nation.
“When the history of this era is written, Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger,” Biden added.
Near the end of his remarks, Biden said that he believes that the United States’ response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is showing the world that the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol does not define this country.
“Vladimir Putin was counting on being able to split up the United States,” the President said. “Look, how would you feel if you saw crowds storm or break down the doors of the British parliament, kill five cops, injure 145 — in the German Bundestag, in the Italian parliament? You think you’d wonder. Well, that’s what the rest of the world saw.”
He continued, saying, “That’s not who we are. And now we prove … under pressure that we are not that country — we are united. And folks, that’s how we we’re able to make sure we kept Europe united, and the free world united. The vote in the United Nations to condemn Putin — 141 countries voted to do that.”
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CNN’s Sam Fossum contributed to this report.