Biden and his team ramp up travel to highlight effects of infrastructure law ahead of State of the Union
By Maegan Vazquez, CNN
President Joe Biden and senior administration officials are embarking on a travel swing this week, showcasing what they see as successful measures to rebuild America’s ailing infrastructure.
In what’s been described as a preview of some of the messaging for next week’s State of the Union address, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Cabinet secretaries are all hitting the road to highlight the implementation of the landmark legislation signed into law during the president’s first two years in office. Among those accomplishments are the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Chips and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.
The president traveled to Baltimore on Monday to showcase the implementation of his policies, and later this week, he’ll head to New York City and Philadelphia for similar remarks.
The trips are taking place in the lead up to Biden’s State of the Union speech in Washington next week — a national platform where he’s expected to illustrate how his policies are successfully going into effect — and a prospective reelection announcement in the coming months. Biden’s approach is expected to be focused on touting the rebound of the American economy and taking aim at Republican proposals — while still underscoring his desire to work across the aisle.
In Baltimore on Monday, he discussed how the infrastructure law will fund replace the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, addressing the largest bottleneck for commuters on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D C, and New Jersey. The new tunnel will be named in honor of civil rights leader and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Speaking from a presidential podium set to the backdrop of an American flag and an Amtrak train on the tracks, Biden recalled that he’d made a thousand trips through the tunnel and walked through it in the 1980s.
“When folks talk about how badly the Baltimore tunnel needs an upgrade, you don’t need me to tell you. I’ve been there and you’ve been there, too,” Biden said.
“You ought to get inside and see,” he remarked, discussing his tour of the tunnel decades ago. “This is a 150-year-old tunnel. I wonder how in the hell it’s still standing.”
“The structure is deteriorating. The roof is leaking. The floor is sinking. This is the United States of America, for God’s sake. We know better than that,” he continued.
When the project is done, Biden said, trains will roll through the tunnel at 110 mph instead of 30 mph, shortening regional MARC train commutes from Baltimore to Washington to 30 minutes.
At Monday’s project kickoff, the president announced an agreement between the state of Maryland and Amtrak, which includes a $450 million commitment for the tunnel replacement project, according to the White House. A project labor agreement between Amtrak and the Baltimore-DC Building and Construction Trades Council was unveiled to cover the first phase of the project. And he also announced an agreement between Amtrak and the North American Builders’ Trade Union “that ensures Amtrak’s large civil engineering construction projects controlled by Amtrak will be performed under union agreements,” according to the White House.
The program is expected to cost approximately $6 billion, of which Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding could contribute up to $4.7 billion, the White House said. Biden was joined by labor leaders, state and local officials, as well as members of Congress and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
On Tuesday, Biden travels to New York City to discuss how Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will improve the Hudson River Tunnel, which sees 200,000 passengers passing through each weekday on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.
On Friday, Biden and Harris are scheduled to travel to Philadelphia to discuss how Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding is removing lead pipes and ensuring clean water across Philadelphia and the country, the official told CNN.
According to the White House, the pair “will discuss the progress we have made and their work implementing the Biden-Harris economic agenda that continues to deliver results for the American people.”
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge will also travel to Chicago to discuss progress made to address homelessness as a result of provisions within the American Rescue Plan, according to the official.
While Biden has often embarked on domestic trips to highlight his policies in action, these stops have served as a significant messaging platform since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives this year.
In a speech at a union hall in Virginia, Biden, for example, sought to contrast his economic policies with House Republicans’ effort in the debt limit standoff.
He asked the crowd, “(Why) in God’s name would Americans give up the progress we’ve made for the chaos they’re suggesting?”
“MAGA Republicans,” he added, “are literally choosing to inflict this pain on the American people.”
Despite that heavy emphasis on his warnings about GOP plans, Biden this week is expected to hone in on his ability to work across the aisle to push legislation into law. Specifically, in a preview of the travel, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre underscored Biden’s “success (in) bringing Republicans and independents and Democrats together to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
In Baltimore on Monday, the president brought up his recent trip to Kentucky, where he stood alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to herald the implementation of the massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that McConnell and 18 other Senate Republicans supported.
The policy messaging trips also carry more weight as the prospect of a presidential reelection campaign looms large over the White House.
Biden has been working intensively on his State of the Union Speech speech — including over the weekend — which his team views as a launching pad for the reelection bid. His speeches around the East Coast week will offer a preview of his message as he touts new infrastructure projects.
Behind the scenes, aides are building up a campaign infrastructure and the West Wing is in the process of restructuring for a politically intense two years.
Peppered in between stops to visit projects funded though the proposals which were the bedrock of his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden will participate in events that are part of an intense fundraising push ahead of the campaign announcement.
The travel comes as Biden also contends with a number of simmering issues in Washington — House Republican probes, investigations into classified documents found at his residence and former office and the debt ceiling standoff. The US Treasury is already taking extraordinary measures to keep the government paying its bills after the US hit the debt ceiling set by Congress.
While the president is in Washington on Wednesday in between travel stops, he’s scheduled to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
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CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.