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President Joe Biden traveled to Howell, Michigan, on Tuesday with the stated goal of lobbying support for his dual spending packages, but the visit also appeared to mark the launch of a White House bid to boost swing-district Democrats heading into the 2022 midterm elections.
Midterm elections traditionally see the party in power lose majorities. Democratic officials previously expressed concerns to the Washington Examiner that the party's inability to reach a consensus on paths forward for the $1.2 trillion bipartisan, physical infrastructure package and a larger, partisan social safety net budget reconciliation proposal would turn potential election losses into inevitable defeats. Democrats are defending narrow majorities in both houses of Congress.
Biden's Tuesday trip, which included televised infrastructure remarks and a photo-op at a local International Union of Operating Engineers chapter, was the fourth time he'd traveled to Michigan as president, and he spent the vast majority of his time there with Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin by his side.
Slotkin won her 2020 race over Republican challenger Paul Junge by just 15,000 votes. Her district includes all of Ingham County, all of Livingston County, and the northern portion of Oakland County. Both Ingham County and Livingston County went for then-President Donald Trump, with him beating Biden in the latter by nearly 24 points. Slotkin is one of the centrist House Democrats who unsuccessfully sought to force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to uncouple the infrastructure bills and bring the bipartisan package to the floor for a vote earlier this year.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre demurred when asked by the Washington Examiner on Tuesday if Biden is "concerned about [Slotkin's] seat" and if that factored into the selection of Howell for Tuesday's visit, claiming instead that Biden's sole focus was highlighting "what the Build Back Better agenda, what the bipartisan infrastructure bill is going to do for the people of Michigan."
"The president has said this himself: He is the president for everyone," she continued when pressed in a follow-up on why the White House wants to visit an area where roughly 60% of the population voted for Trump. "Again, he's been doing this for the past several months, having these conversations."
Biden, fielding questions before flying back to D.C. Tuesday evening, additionally stated that he wasn't worried about Slotkin's election prospects and likes her a lot.
Still, two senior Democratic officials suggested to the Washington Examiner that the White House was clearly showing some "2022 gamesmanship" on Tuesday.
"The president's infrastructure bills are our best shot at holding on to majorities in 2022," one official added. "Failing to pass would essentially guarantee Congress flipping back to the Republicans and would make accomplishing POTUS's legislative agenda that much harder."
In addition to his appearance with Slotkin, Biden also met virtually with 11 other swing-district Democrats before departing Washington for Michigan on Tuesday. That group included Colin Allred, Lizzie Fletcher, and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, Cindy Axne of Iowa, Sharice Davids of Kansas, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Tom O'Halleran of Arizona, Katie Porter of California, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, and Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, according to White House officials.
"They had a productive discussion about how each of these economic growth packages, both physical and human infrastructure, are central to how we ensure our economy delivers for the middle class and secure our competitiveness in the world," a White House readout of the meeting states. "The group renewed their commitment to getting each bill passed so that we can make investing in families the heart of our economic growth strategy. They also discussed how much it resonated with the American people that Build Back Better’s investments in our economic growth are paid for by undoing tax breaks for the rich and big corporations that are holding us back from making the investments we need to compete in the world, with a price tag of zero."
Biden expanded on those themes during his Tuesday remarks after reminding the crowd that Slotkin, a former intelligence officer, should not be "screwed with."
"I want to talk about what's fundamentally at stake for our country now at this moment. I know it's an overused phrase, but I've been using it a lot: We're at an inflection point," the president said. "We're at risk of losing our edge as a nation. Our infrastructure used to be the best in the world, literally, not figuratively. Today, according to the World Economic Forum, we ranked 13th."
"These bills are not about Left versus Right or conservative versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another," he continued. "These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They're about opportunity versus decay. They're about leading the world or continuing to let the world pass us by, which is literally happening."
The president went so far as claiming that supporting his agenda "is to create a rising America, an America that's moving" and that "to oppose these investments is to be complicit in America's decline."
"To support these bills is to pursue a broader vision for our nation, and to oppose them is accepting a very cramped view of our future," Biden concluded. "We're going to lead the world like we used to. If we're going to do that, we have to also invest in our people."
The Michigan trip was the president's first foray into Trump country since his agenda was delayed by the botched Afghanistan troop withdrawal, but he took several trips to Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin earlier this summer.
Throughout those visits, Biden frequently framed both the bipartisan and reconciliation proposals as major job creators and necessary investments to help the U.S. compete economically with China.
"This is going to be an American century," the president told a crowd in McHenry County, Illinois, in July. "My American Families Plan and the other elements of the Build Back Better agenda, experts on Wall Street and analysts have said, will create millions of good-paying jobs for years and decades to come, not just in the near term. So, I'm going to be making the case to the American people until the job is done."
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Original Author: Christian Datoc
Original Location: Infrastructure and 2022: Biden targets two birds with one stone in Michigan