Biden looks to shift focus from D.C. gridlock to swing-state benefits

By Jarrett Renshaw and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will hit the road on Tuesday to try to shift the spotlight from the wrangling within his Democratic Party over his huge social spending package to its potential benefits for Americans.

Squabbling Democratic moderates and progressives dealt Biden a major setback last week when they failed to move ahead with his proposed $1 trillion infrastructure bill or $3.5 trillion social spending bill.

The president will visit Michigan “to continue rallying public support” for both initiatives, the White House said.

“He wants to go out there and talk about the components and the piece of these bills that will make people’s lives better, even as we’re having very important conversations about the legislative logistics here,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.

Democrats fear that if they fail to pass the infrastructure bill they could be punished by angry voters in next year’s congressional elections. Rebuilding U.S. infrastructure was one of Biden’s key election promises.

The larger “Build Back Better” bill Biden proposed includes childcare, housing and healthcare benefits, free community college tuition and clean energy subsidies, all of which the White House said would not increase the nation’s debt because they would be paid for by taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Before traveling to Michigan, Biden plans to meet virtually with Democratic members of the House at 10:15 a.m. (1415 GMT) on Tuesday about the infrastructure bill and his Build Back Better agenda, according his White House schedule.

Biden allies worry that those programs, many of which opinion polls show are popular with a majority of Americans, have been lost in the legislative wrangling.

Michigan is an election battleground state that Biden flipped from Republican to Democratic in 2020. The White House said aging infrastructure has slowed commutes for Michigan residents and that many lack access to broadband internet and childcare.

Biden will travel to Howell, a city of about 9,500 located roughly 55 miles (89 km) west of Detroit, and visit an International Union of Operating Engineers training facility. The town sits in the highly competitive 8th congressional district. Voters there picked Trump in 2020 but also returned Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin to Congress.

Slotkin supports the $1 trillion roads-and-bridges bill and has advocated for elements of the broader social-spending legislation, but said she would need to review the plan in full.

Progressive House Democrats have said they will not vote for that bill until they get backing for Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending bill, whose price tag has caused some moderates to balk. The dispute forced Democratic leaders last week to postpone a vote scheduled on the infrastructure measure, which has already secured bipartisan Senate support.

Biden has said the size of the social spending bill will have to come down to win over two Senate Democratic moderates, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. Their support is necessary because all Senate Republicans oppose the larger bill and every Democratic vote is needed for passage.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Ross Colvin and Leslie Adler)

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