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Biden pitches his infrastructure plan in deep-red Louisiana

Biden pitches infrastructure plan
Biden pitches infrastructure plan 29:40

President Biden visited Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Thursday as part of his nationwide tour to promote his sweeping $2.3 trillion proposal the American Jobs Plan. 

Mr. Biden's visit to the deep-red state of Louisiana was the latest stop on his "Getting America Back on Track" tour, as he tries to persuade not just Republican lawmakers but everyday Americans that his ideas are worth the massive price tag. Louisiana hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1996. 

The president first spoke with the 70-year-old Calcasieu River Bridge in the background in Lake Charles. 

"When it comes to bridges and roads and the like, I've never seen a Republican or Democrat road. I just see roads," Mr. Biden said.

The president used the Calcasieu River Bridge as an example of infrastructure that's fallen behind the times. The bridge was created to handle 37,000 crossings a day. It now handles more than 80,000 each day. 

Biden
President Joe Biden speaks with the Interstate 10 Calcasieu River Bridge behind him, Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Lake Charles, La. Alex Brandon / AP

"You know when the bridge was built in 1952 there was nothing there. It was built to make sure that we in fact it was going to last for 50 years. That was 20 years ago," he said. 

The U.S. used to be first in the world in infrastructure, but now ranks eighth, Mr. Biden said, claiming infrastructure deficiencies cost the U.S. $160 billion a year in economic benefits. But the president cited benefits other than economic ones, too, insisting that his plan will increase the safety of travel, and make commutes shorter so workers can spend more time with their families. The president said large corporations and the very wealthy have to pay more into the country.

"Trickle down ain't working very well, man," he said, referencing the conservative economic theory that if businesses and the wealthy pay less in taxes, it will stimulate the economy and benefit those lower on the economic totem pole.

Mr. Biden also spent time in Lake Charles on Thursday pitching the benefits of his American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion proposal that would entail free preschool for all 3-and-4-year-olds, and two years of free community college, among other things. 

Lake Charles was hit by two hurricanes, Laura and Delta, in 2020, which broke the record for the most named storms. Ahead of Mr. Biden's visit, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon sent the president a letter urging him to support additional disaster relief funding to help areas struggling to recover from natural disasters that took place in 2020 and early 2021.

Mr. Biden has hit the road in recent weeks to drum up support from voters for his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package, which includes $621 billion to rebuild the nation's roads, bridges, rails and airports. A White House fact sheet examining the need for infrastructure improvements in Louisiana estimates there are 1,634 bridges and more than 3,400 miles of highway in the state that are in "poor condition."

The president plans to pay for his infrastructure plan in part by raising the corporate tax rate to 28% and increasing the global minimum tax on U.S. multinational corporations. But Republicans have balked at the cost of Mr. Biden's plan and his proposed method of paying for it, as well as some components that GOP lawmakers say stretches the definition of "infrastructure."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has frequently criticized the proposal, and told reporters on Wednesday that "100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration." He partially walked this comment back on Thursday, saying he is "anxious to stop the Biden agenda depending on what it is."

"I want to do business with the president, but he needs to be a moderate. He said he was going to be a moderate during the campaign. I haven't seen that yet," McConnell told reporters.

A group of Republican senators last month put forth their own infrastructure counter-proposal, which at $568 billion is far smaller than Mr. Biden's plan. It's unclear exactly how much the president is willing to compromise, although he's expressed a willingness to compromise on the corporate tax increase. Mr. Biden's proposal calls for a 28% corporate tax rate, but Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a key vote, has pushed for nothing higher than a 25% corporate tax rate. 

Mr. Biden said during his remarks on Thursday that he was "willing to hear ideas from both sides" to improve the legislation, adding that he was meeting with congressional Republicans to see "how much they're willing to go for."

"I'm ready to compromise. What I'm not ready to do — I'm not ready to do nothing," Mr. Biden said. "I'm not ready to have another period where American has another 'infrastructure month' that doesn't change a damn thing."

Mr. Biden also spoke with Louisiana Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, both Republicans, during his trip.

Grace Segers contributed to this report.

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