Biden touts his progressive policies in latest infrastructure pitch in Illinois

President Biden sought to assure Americans on Wednesday that the newly minted bipartisan framework of his infrastructure plan, while pared down, still addresses several progressive investments promised over the past several months, such as lowering childcare costs and expanding schooling.

“To truly win the 21st century and once again lead the world, to truly build an economy once again from the bottom up and the middle out, to truly deal everybody in this time, we need to invest in our people,” Biden said in a speech in Crystal Lake, Ill. “That’s why, in addition to the bipartisan infrastructure agreement that I believe we’re going to get done, I’m here to make a case for the second critical part of my domestic agenda. It’s a combination of parts of my American Jobs Plan that were essential and not included in the bipartisan infrastructure plan, as well as my American Families Plan.”

President Biden discusses his Build Back Better economic plans July 7 in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
President Biden discusses his Build Back Better economic plans on Wednesday in Crystal Lake, Ill. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden told the small audience at McHenry County College, in the suburbs of Chicago, that the framework, in conjunction with Democrats’ more expansive reconciliation package — which he is calling his Build Back Better agenda — will allow the White House to achieve bipartisan and progressive goals concurrently.

Biden appealed mainly to parents and families, repeatedly stressing how the reconciliation and infrastructure proposals would ease their financial burdens. He ticked through several wish-list items for progressives, including at least two years of free community college, universal free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, and an expansion of free school meals for over 350,000 students, alongside an expansion of the child tax credit established by the White House’s coronavirus relief bill. The Build Back Better plan would also make permanent the earned income tax credit, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.

“Any nation that out-educates us will out-compete us,” said Biden, who later added that “high-quality childcare options should be the rule, not the exception.”

Biden’s Illinois speech is part of the White House’s larger campaign to drum up public support of its policy agenda. At the end of June, the president released an op-ed in Yahoo News highlighting the benefits of the deal. Last week, he traveled to Wisconsin to stress the economic benefits of the framework.

The bipartisan framework’s rollout began with mangled communication, when Biden threatened to veto the bill if it was not passed in conjunction with the Democrats’ reconciliation package, which was packed tight with many of the agenda items cut by negotiators from the White House’s initial infrastructure proposal. Republican opposition to the ultimatum forced Biden to walk his comments back, leaving progressives nervous that he was willing to abandon their infrastructure priorities in order to work across the aisle.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on in June.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at a news conference in the Capitol in June. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Although it’s not clear whether the White House has enough votes for either plan, some powerful Republicans seem to back the slimmed-down version. Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told some of his constituents that the plan would financially benefit them.

“It passed on a straight party line vote. ... So you’re going to get a lot more money,” McConnell said. “I didn’t vote for it, but you’re going to get a lot more money. Cities and counties in Kentucky will get close to $700 [million to] $800 million.”

When asked about the fate of the bipartisan plan in Congress ahead of his remarks Wednesday, Biden noted that McConnell had been talking it up.

“Look it up, man, he’s bragging about it in Kentucky,” Biden said.

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