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Biden lauds infrastructure law as Covid clouds gather

In Minnesota to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law, the president said he would outline his strategy to combat Covid this winter on Thursday.

President Joe Biden traveled to Minnesota on Tuesday as his administration seeks to refocus public attention on the bipartisan infrastructure law as a new and worrying coronavirus variant emerges.

"Rebuilding in America, investing in America — that’s what this is about. And we’re doing it as we continue to battle a pandemic," Biden said at an event at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount.

As the omicron variant sparks new fears, Biden reiterated that it is a "cause for concern, but not a cause to panic." He said he will outline a "detailed strategy" Thursday for how his administration plans to combat Covid this winter, adding that the strategy will rely not on lockdowns but on more widespread vaccinations and testing.

Biden went on to argue that implementing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, which Congress approved this month with bipartisan support, would help keep the economy growing. The White House is still working to get the second part of Biden's economic agenda, the Build Back Better plan, passed into law.

The House voted to pass the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better bill on Nov. 19, but it still needs approval in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he hopes to hold a vote on the legislation before Christmas, but Congress is also confronting a packed agenda that could put that timeline in jeopardy.

Biden said Tuesday that his Build Back Better bill would make a "giant difference" in people's lives by lowering the costs of child care, elder care, housing and prescription drugs while combating climate change and tackling inflation.

"Frankly, I'm surprised that not a single Republican in Congress has joined us in support of it," he said.

Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks Tuesday at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn.Carolyn Kaster / AP

The infrastructure law will provide Minnesota with $4.5 billion for highways and $302 million for bridges, according to the White House. The state will also get $818 million to improve public transportation, $68 million to build an electric vehicle charging network, $100 million for high-speed internet and $680 million to improve water infrastructure.

Democrats are relying on the infrastructure law in part to buoy the party as they head into what is expected to be a difficult midterm elections year.

Before Thanksgiving, Biden visited a bridge in New Hampshire and a General Motors plant in Michigan to tout the law. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday's visit to Minnesota was "part of our ongoing effort to go out there and tell the American people how this bill — this law, I should say — will benefit them."

Biden said he and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with Cabinet members, will travel all over the country in the coming weeks to "show how these investments are going to change your lives."

Biden said that before his speech, he was notified about the school shooting in Oxford, Michigan.

"My heart goes out to the families enduring the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one," he said. "That whole community has to be just in a state of shock right now."