WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday signed one of his biggest legislative victories into law, the hard-fought $555 billion infrastructure bill.
The act will direct billions of dollars toward new construction of roads, bridges, airports and seaports. It will also expand the availability of broadband internet, replace lead pipes and build electric vehicle charging stations.
"Here in Washington, we've heard countless speeches and promises, white papers from experts, but today we're finally getting this done," Biden said Monday. "So my message to the American people is this: America's moving again, and your life is going to change for the better."
Democrats, whose political tides have turn this year, are staking much of their future on touting the legislation in next year’s midterm elections. Biden framed the bill as a once-in-a-generation investment that shows what Democrats and Republicans can accomplish when they work together.
"I know you're tired of the bickering in Washington, frustrated by the negativity," Biden said. "And you just want us to focus on your needs, your concerns and the conversations that are taking place at your kitchen table, conversations as profound as they are ordinary."
While the carefully choreographed ceremony on the White House lawn, which was designed to tout the bipartisan nature of the bill, had been put off for a week so members of Congress could attend, several notable Republicans who voted for the legislation were absent, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who said he had "other things I've got to do."
Even so, Biden thanked McConnell for supporting the bill. Among the Republicans who attended were Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, who spoke at the event, Mitt Romney of Utah and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.
The White House said it invited all lawmakers who voted for the bill — 19 Republican senators and 13 House members — along with other GOP elected officials from state governments. Since the bill passed, Republicans who supported it have increasingly come under attack by members of their own party.
Congressional Republicans who voted for the bill have been blasted by members of their own party, with some saying they have received death threats.
Meanwhile, business groups like the National Retail Federation, Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers praised the bill's enactment.
"The enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help connect 14 million Americans to broadband, provide clean drinking water for 10 million families, upgrade our energy grid, and grow our economy," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark said in a statement Monday. "It is the single largest investment in bridges since construction of the Interstate Highway System and the single largest investment in innovation, efficiency, and resiliency to address climate change in U.S. history."
The signing ceremony kicks off a week of travel for Biden. He will cross the country to sell the bill to the public and push for Congress to pass a second social safety net spending package.
Biden will visit an interstate bridge in New Hampshire on Tuesday, and he will head to an electric vehicle plant in Michigan on Wednesday. Last week, he visited the Port of Baltimore to discuss the country’s shipping and logistics.
White House officials blamed Democrats' losses in Virginia this month and a closer-than-expected governor's race in New Jersey on a lack of action in Washington on Biden’s domestic agenda.
While Biden looks to get political credit for the new law, the White House is keeping its focus on getting Congress to pass a separate $1.75 trillion spending bill that would fund measures like universal pre-K and programs to lower medical costs.
Biden's approval ratings have dropped in recent weeks. A Washington Post/ABC poll conducted after the House passed the infrastructure bill found his job rating at 41 percent, even though the same survey found 63 percent of Americans supporting the legislation. The poll found that just 35 percent of Americans believe Biden has accomplished a great deal or a good amount in his first 10 months in office.
The White House has struggled to convince Americans that the bill is connected to alleviating the economic pressures around inflation, product shortages and labor shortages. The White House said he has chosen former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to coordinate implementing the bipartisan infrastructure plan.