President Biden in Wisconsin; infrastructure plan promoted

President Joe Biden, struggling to regain his political footing as the midterm elections approach, visited the crucial state of Wisconsin on Wednesday to promote one of his top accomplishments, a bipartisan infrastructure measure that will distribute billions of dollars to fix roads, bridges and other public works.

Biden’s trip was part of a customary post-State of the Union blitz that enlisted Vice President Kamala Harris and Cabinet officials, who fanned out across the country to showcase the administration's plans.

Along with first lady Jill Biden, the president shook hands with workers in hard hats and neon vests near the base of the John A. Blatnik Memorial Bridge, which connects Wisconsin and Minnesota by spanning a corner of Lake Superior. The span is a perennial candidate for replacement because it's too corroded to support heavy trucks, limiting its ability to serve as an economic lifeline for the region.

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"After years of talking about infrastructure, we’re finally getting it done," Biden said in a speech at a nearby college campus.

Although the $1 trillion infrastructure legislation was a bright spot in his rocky first year, Biden's broader agenda – including education programs, price controls for prescription drugs and financial incentives for fighting climate change – remains stalled on Capitol Hill.

The White House has brushed off questions about whether Biden was rebranding his legislative proposals, previously known as "Build Back Better," but the signs flanking the president in Wisconsin told a different story.

"Building A Better America," they said, echoing a line from his State of the Union address.

Biden is also trying to demonstrate that his administration remains focused on domestic issues even as he confronts the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a crisis that has required close coordination with European allies.

"When the history of this era is written, Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger," Biden pledged.

Harris, Cabinet members speak elsewhere

Harris was in North Carolina, a swing state that remained out of reach for Democrats in the last election, to visit an apprentice training program for union electrical workers. She was joined by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, one of several Cabinet officials who were traveling Wednesday.

One of the most notable trips was made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who rarely makes appearances with political undertones. She touched down in Chicago, where she had lunch at a Ukrainian restaurant in a show of solidarity with the besieged country and spoke at the University of Illinois' campus in the city.

Yellen defended the administration's economic sanctions on Russia, saying they've driven down the worth of the ruble and forced Moscow to close the stock market for days to limit losses.

"The objective is to keep the pain to the maximum extent possible, focused on Russia and not on the rest of us," she said, an acknowledgement that economic ripple effects could affect Americans with higher gas prices.

What is means

Biden's approval ratings have sagged since last summer, and Republicans are poised to retake control of Congress. The White House has said Biden intends to spend more time traveling this year to promote his administration's plans.

"He’s got to take his message above and beyond the national press, and the chattering class of the northeastern corridor," said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster. "He’s got to hit the local television networks, he’s got to get into the local paper."

Belcher encouraged Biden to take a page from President Ronald Reagan, who promised "morning in America," at a time when polls show voters are pessimistic about the future.

"He’s got to be cheerleader in chief," he said. "He’s got to make Americans feel better."

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Other trips are highlighting a mix of administration successes and pending proposals.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan planned to promote investments in water infrastructure during a visit to South Carolina, while Interior Secretary Deb Haaland was headed to Connecticut to talk about funding for tribal communities to expand broadband internet access and repair roads.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was going to Kentucky to tour a solar farm and participate in a roundtable discussion about clean energy investments across Appalachia.

More trips are coming up.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra heads to Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday to pitch Biden’s new initiatives on mental health, along with other administration priorities on COVID-19 vaccination and health equity.

Official statements

Congressman Bryan Steil (R)

"Our nation is facing multiple problems including rising violent crime, record high inflation, an open southern border, and now, global instability. Instead of addressing these challenges, President Biden is spending his day touting a massive government spending bill that passed last year. Considering our ever rising gas and home heating costs, it’s unfortunate that President Biden did not take this opportunity to focus on domestic energy infrastructure."

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler

"Thanks to the close partnership between President Biden, Governor Evers, and our Democratic delegation in Congress, the federal government is funding and prioritizing projects that will benefit every city and town in our state – from Superior to Milwaukee to Platteville.

"Today is a celebration of President Biden and Democrats delivering much-needed relief to our state and a referendum on the Wisconsin GOP – including Superior’s own representative, Tom Tiffany – who voted against these critical investments without concern for the communities they represent. Despite Wisconsin Republicans’ obstruction, working families in Superior and throughout Wisconsin are thankful to President Biden and Democrats for providing the largest federal investment in infrastructure in history.

"President Biden’s infrastructure law is going to benefit every neighborhood in the Badger State – especially in communities along the Great Lakes – and is just another example of how the Biden-Harris administration and Democrats in Congress are working to build Wisconsin back better."

Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Paul Farrow

"Joe Biden’s public relations stop in Superior only exemplifies why his approval ratings are plummeting – he’s too busy planning photo-ops to focus on the issues that matter. Amid his attacks on mining, threats to pipelines like Line 5 and halting of Keystone XL, and failure to continue American energy independence, no amount of photo-ops will stop rural Wisconsinites from leaving the Democrat Party in droves."

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel 

"After doubling down on his failed agenda in his State of the Union Address, Biden travels to Wisconsin without offering real solutions to the problems Americans are facing. Pledging to waste trillions more in taxpayer dollars while hardworking Americans are forced to pay skyrocketing prices for everyday goods proves just how out-of-touch Biden and Democrats are with the American people."

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