Biden appears remotely at Sharpton’s NAN convention, touts $2T infrastructure plan as good for Black communities

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Michael Gartland, New York Daily News
·3 min read
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President Biden touted his $2 trillion infrastructure plan Wednesday in opening remarks to the National Action Network, the civil rights group led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who Biden praised for “fighting for the soul of America.”

Biden laced his comments with references to controversial new laws in states like Georgia aimed at increasing voter restrictions — a policy he likened to the racist Jim Crow laws of years past — and touched on his own $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus law, which he said is projected to cut poverty among Blacks by 37%.

“From my perspective, it’s only the beginning,” Biden said of the stimulus. “My American jobs plan will make generational investments in rebuilding America, delivering good jobs, equity and opportunity to Black neighborhoods that never seem to get dealt in on the American Dream.”

That plan — a proposed infrastructure outlay of $2 trillion that’s now being debated in Congress — has taken flak from Republicans as overly broad and for its provision to raise taxes on the rich.

On Wednesday, Biden, who delivered his remarks remotely, homed in on the aspects of it most likely to resonate with Blacks, noting that the plan would replace lead pipes that carry drinking water in places like Flint, Mich., where many Blacks were poisoned by contaminated tap water.

“We have so much work to do,” he said, turning his attention to Sharpton. “But I know that together we’re going to continue to make extraordinary progress, so thank you, thank you for everything you do.”

His short remarks helped kick off the National Action Network’s 30th annual national convention, which also boasted several other political heavyweights including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Attorney General Merrick Garland — all of whom spoke at the event as well.

The lineup represented a sharp shift from Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump, who was at odds with Sharpton throughout the entirety of his time in the Oval Office.

While Biden touched briefly on criminal justice and police reform, Sharpton put more emphasis on those issues, which have been front and center since a white Minnesota cop shot and killed an unarmed 20-year-old Black man during a traffic stop on Sunday.

To many, he said, people killed by police represent “an issue,” but he added that their families have an entirely different perspective.

“This is their flesh and blood. This is their child. They did not ask to become leaders or activists or symbols,” Sharpton said. “They woke up one morning, and their whole world had changed.”

Schumer, who also spoke remotely, focused much of what he had to say on how Biden’s stimulus would benefit Blacks as well, but only made glancing mention of police reform measures now in the works. Those measures, which are included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, named after another Black man who died while in custody of a white police officer, have faced opposition from Republicans in the evenly divided Senate. Pelosi noted that the House of Representatives voted to support the bill.

Garland assured that his office’s civil rights division is “already hard at work.”

“It is stepping up its efforts to ensure the right to vote. It is combating discrimination in areas from housing to education to employment. And it will work hard to ensure accountability for law enforcement misconduct,” he said. “It will also prioritize investigating whether government agencies are engaging in patterns or practices that deprive individuals of their federal or constitutional rights.”