WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday pushed back against Republican criticism that his American Jobs Plan goes beyond funding traditional infrastructure, and sought to redefine the meaning of the word to encompass more than roads and bridges.
"The idea of infrastructure has always evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs. And it's evolving again today," Biden said in a speech arguing that the country needs to view infrastructure "through its effect on the lives of working people in America."
"To automatically say that the only thing that's infrastructure is a highway, a bridge or whatever, that's just not rational. It really isn't."
Biden's remarks comes one week after he first unveiled his $2 trillion plan, and as Republicans in Congress are already criticizing him for including items such as investments in affordable housing and access to care for the elderly.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has called the plan a "Trojan horse" because it includes issues Democrats have wanted to advance for years. The Republican leader said that Biden has "thrown everything but the kitchen sink" into the proposal.
Biden highlighted a number of the more popular proposals in his bill during his Wednesday remarks, including clean water programs, high-speed internet, the electrical grid enhancements and plans to upgrade veterans’ hospitals and federal buildings.
"Is it really your position, my friends, that our veterans don't deserve the most modern facilities?" he said.
Seeking to put Republicans on the defense, Biden argued that failing to pass a large infrastructure plan would put the country at a competitive disadvantage abroad especially with China and warned that failing to work together to pass a broad package could weaken the global perception of democracy.
"Do you think China is waiting around to invest in this digital infrastructure, or on research and development? I promise you: They are not waiting. But they care counting on American democracy to be too slow, too limited and too divided to keep pace."
Biden's comments came hours after the Treasury Department released a detailed plan for a massive overhaul of the corporate tax structure that would raise more than $2 trillion over the next 15 years to fund the president's proposal.
Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also called for other countries to commit to a corporate tax floor, saying that the U.S. is working with other G20 nations to develop and implement a global minimum tax which she said would foster more equitable economic growth.
Biden, who has proposed raising the corporate income tax rate to 28 percent to pay for his plan over a 15-year period, said he was willing to negotiate on that number. Many Republicans and some Democrats have said that 28 percent was too high.
"I'm willing to listen to that," Biden said when asked if he would go lower than 28 percent. "I'm wide open to that, but we gotta pay for this."
Despite Biden's efforts to expand America's perception of infrastructure, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier Wednesday that the proposal should be viewed as more of a jobs plan.
"This is essentially a jobs bill. Yes, there is a lot in here that is infrastructure," Psaki said in response to a question about how home health workers could be defined as infrastructure. "Our workers, our workforce is part of the backbone and infrastructure of America's economy and communities."