Biden signs $1 trillion infrastructure bill as Sen. McConnell snubs White House ceremony
President Biden signed his $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in an elaborate White House ceremony Monday afternoon — but the top Republican who made it happen skipped the event.
“This law is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America,” Biden told about 800 people gathered outside the presidential residence. “It leaves no one behind.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blew off Biden’s big event even though he bragged that his support pushed the sprawling bill to passage in the evenly divided Senate.
“I’ve got other things I’ve got to do than go to the signing ceremony, [but] I think it was good for the country, and I’m glad it passed,” McConnell said, without elaborating on his refusal to attend the ceremony.
Biden still offered thanks to McConnell at the ceremony, expressing appreciation both for his vote and for “talking about how useful and important” the bill is.
“My message to the American people is this: America is moving again and your life is going to change for the better,” Biden said.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) cheered the bipartisanship on display and took a swipe at former President Donald Trump and his supporters for trashing Republicans for working with Democrats to pass the bill.
“Finding common ground to advance the interests of the American people should be rewarded, not attacked,” Portman said.
The White House invited the other 18 GOP senators and 13 Republican House lawmakers who voted for the bill, which is widely popular with the public but has been sharply denounced by Trump and his army of MAGA supporters.
Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Hochul also traveled to Washington to attend the ceremony. And in his speech, Biden highlighted the thrashing the New York region took from the remnants of Hurricane Ida in September, noting his own trip to Queens after the storm.
“This law builds back our bridges, our water systems, our power lines, our levees better and stronger,” Biden said, “so that fewer Americans will be flooded out of their homes and lose power.”
Some Republicans joined McConnell in skipping the event to avoid lending a veneer of bipartisan support to Biden, who is bitterly opposed by the bulk of Republicans and is struggling with low overall approval ratings in recent polls.
Trump has already called for primary challenges against Republicans who voted for the bill, lumping them together with the 10 GOP House lawmakers who voted for his impeachment.
The former president also denounced some lawmakers by name, including first-term Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-L.I.), who has also received death threats for supporting the Biden bill. Trump did not mention others like Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-S.I., Brooklyn), who also voted for the infrastructure bill.
Biden held off on signing the hard-fought infrastructure deal after it passed last week so legislators could return from a congressional recess in time to join the splashy bipartisan event.
“I truly believe that 50 years from now, historians are going to look back at this moment and say, ‘That’s the moment America began to win the competition of the 21st century,’ ” Biden said moments before signing the bill.
Governors, mayors, labor leaders and business bigwigs were on hand to revel in the measure, which was designed to rebuild crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels and railroad lines.
Biden has named Mitch Landrieu, the former New Orleans mayor, to coordinate the implementation of the infrastructure spending.
The president began the process of selling the bill to the broader public with a trip last week to the Port of Baltimore. He’s due to visit New Hampshire on Tuesday to visit a bridge on the state’s “red list” for repair, and to drop into Detroit on Wednesday for a stop at General Motors’ electric vehicle assembly plant.
After Monday’s signing ceremony, Democrats can turn their attention back to trying to pass a more delicate package of $1.85 trillion in proposed spending on families, health care, education and climate measures.
Democratic leaders predict the House will pass the bill this week, but it still has not won the unanimous support of Senate Democrats. Biden continues to work to win over skeptics like kingmaker Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) without losing the backing of progressives.
But Monday, the president kept his focus on touting the promise of his infrastructure law, calling on Americans to “believe in possibilities” and to “believe in America.”
“Let’s remember this day,” Biden said. “Let’s remember we can come together. And most of all, let’s remember what we got done for the American people.”
Then he paced over to a nearby table, was surrounded by congressional leaders, rubbed his hands in the chilly air, and inked his signature to the bill as Democrats beamed and cheered.