Biden celebrates $1 trillion fix for US infrastructure

© Agence France-Presse

US President Joe Biden celebrates his big infrastructure bill vicgtory at the NH 175 bridge over the Pemigewasset River in Woodstock, New Hampshire

North Woodstock (United States) (AFP) - Joe Biden flew Tuesday to a creaky bridge in New Hampshire to tout his rare victory in passing a bipartisan infrastructure package, hoping the $1 trillion measure will also put his own presidency back on the road.

Biden's trip to the antiquated NH 175 bridge over the Pemigewasset River in North Woodstock kicked off a blitz by the White House to milk political capital from the biggest national infrastructure deal in more than half a century.

Biden signed the bill -- which allocates $1.2 trillion for bridges, roads, internet broadband, electric vehicle charging networks and clean drinking water -- at a White House ceremony on Monday.

Standing on the bridge in a light snowfall, Biden said the coming wave of public works projects should lift the nation.

"When you see these projects starting in your home towns, I want you to feel what I feel: pride," he said.

Beyond the huge price tag, the bill was remarkable for getting a significant minority of Republicans voting alongside Biden's Democrats in Congress, a rare to vanishing event in today's Washington.

And Biden, whose poll ratings have cratered in the face of high inflation and the stubborn Covid pandemic, hopes that success will deliver him new political life.

"Despite the cynics -- Democrats and Republicans -- we can work together. We can deliver real results," Biden said on the bridge.

Biden's big sales pitch

A White House official said the trip to New Hampshire, a tiny but politically outsized state with a crucial role in presidential election primaries, was just the beginning.

"President Biden's trip... marks the start of an administration-wide effort where the president, vice president, and cabinet members will travel across the country promoting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and communicating directly with the American people about how it will change their lives for the better," a spokesman said.

"Officials will travel red states, blue states, big cities, small towns, rural areas, tribal communities, and more to highlight how the president forged consensus."

In addition to travel, the administration will be unrolling a media campaign on local and national television.

The latest Washington Post-ABC poll showed only 41 percent approving Biden's job performance, a devastating drop from his first months in power, when he ended the chaotic Donald Trump era with a promise of bipartisan healing and government competence.

Biden has since taken hits from the resurgence of the Covid-19 virus, rocketing inflation linked to pandemic-related supply chain problems, and the messy exit from the Afghan war. However, the White House feels he can change the narrative in the coming months and reconnect with the voters who sent him to the Oval Office.

"The backbone of this country has been hollowed out," Biden said in his New Hampshire speech. "The middle class built this country and they've been left out."

"We all ran for office to help those questions..., to make sure democracy delivers for everybody."

While Biden touts his biggest positive news in weeks, Democrats in Congress are reentering painful negotiations on what the president hopes will be the other half of his giant spending ambitions -- a $1.75 trillion splurge on education, childcare and other social services.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that the House would vote on this week on the bill, known as "Build Back Better." However, it could face more wrangling in the Senate, where Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote and two of their senators are skeptical about the bill.