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Biden's new challenge is to connect infrastructure law to economic concerns

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden holds a cabinet meeting at the White House on Nov. 12, 2021.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Today, President Biden gets to celebrate the big bipartisan/unity/coming-together achievement that he campaigned on — when he signs the $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation into law.

“We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature,” Biden said at his inaugural address. “For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.”

The problem for Biden: The public isn’t rewarding him for this bill.

At least not yet.

A Washington Post/ABC poll, conducted after the House passed the infrastructure bill, has Biden’s job rating at 41 percent, even though the same survey shows 63 percent of Americans supporting the bipartisan infrastructure legislation (and 58 percent favoring his spending on climate change, preschool and health care).

What’s more, the poll finds that just 35 percent of Americans believe Biden has accomplished a great deal or a good amount during his first 10 months in office.

One reason why Biden hasn’t gotten credit for the infrastructure bill — outside of the fact that it took the House three months to pass it after the Senate did — is that Americans don’t see it connected to their concerns about the economy.

Just 29 percent of Americans have a positive view of the economy, while a whopping 70 percent see it in a negative light, per the same Post/ABC poll.

And 59 percent say they are more concerned that Biden will do too much to increase the size and role of government, despite the majorities supporting the big infrastructure and social safety net bills.

Bottom line: Even though the unemployment rate is down and wages are up, the economy feels out of sorts to too many Americans, as prices on goods and services keep on increasing.

And Biden, right now, seems focused on his legacy and his long-term agenda — rather than the problems that the public is feeling.

One other thing: Three months after 19 GOP senators helped pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill — and three months after the Biden White House focused more on their partisan social safety net legislation — just how bipartisan is today’s bill signing going to be?

Build it and they will come

But national Democrats seem confident that campaigning on the popular infrastructure bill and climate/preschool/health care legislation (once it also passes Congress) is the way to improve Biden’s numbers and the party’s political fortunes, NBC’s Sahil Kapur reports.

"Voters are deeply cynical about what politicians say they will do, so Democrats need to actually get it done," Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson tells Kapur. "This gap won't close by telling people what we will do. It will close by showing people what we are doing."

Adds Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the DCCC: "We're about to deliver universal pre-k and extend a game-changing middle-class tax cut. The job now is to go out and sell it. So I'm encouraged to see that Joe Biden's begun to tour the country connecting with Americans like only he can.”

And this week, Biden heads to New Hampshire (on Tuesday) and Michigan (on Wednesday) to sell the infrastructure bill.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

10: The number of Astroworld victims now that a nine-year-old boy has passed away.

10 points: The GOP advantage on the generic ballot in the Washington Post-ABC News poll, with Republicans at 51 percent to the Democrats’ 41 percent.

47,079,752: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 212,534 more since Friday morning.)

765,992: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,778 more since Friday morning.)

440,559,613: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC.

29,338,966: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC.

58.8 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

70.5 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet Monday for a virtual summit.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon will be arraigned Monday morning for contempt of Congress.

The New York Times reported that the military had tried to downplay a 2019 airstrike against the Islamic State that may have killed dozens of civilians.

American Journalist Danny Fenster has been released from Myanmar, where he had been sentenced to 11 years of hard labor by the military junta.

CNN reports that Vice President Harris has had a rocky start to her time in the administration.

The New York Times looks at how the congressional battleground is coming together amid the redistricting battles.