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Biden promotes infrastructure law in Detroit, pushes for social safety net bill

The House could vote on the president's Build Back Better proposal as early as this week.

President Joe Biden visited Detroit on Wednesday to promote the recently enacted infrastructure law and made the case for a social safety net and climate package that the House could vote on as soon as this week.

Speaking from a General Motors plant that was renovated to build electric trucks and SUVs, Biden said his legislative agenda would not add to inflationary pressures and argued that his $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan would make a "gigantic difference" for households by lowering the costs of child and health care.

"In previous crises, we have emerged stronger than we were," Biden said. "And now, as we work to put the Covid-19 pandemic behind us, we will build an economy of the 21st century."

Biden went on to argue that the $555 billion infrastructure law and the Build Back Better plan are needed to compete with other countries, particularly China, the world's second-largest economy.

President Joe Biden visits the production line for the Hummer EV as he tours the General Motors Factory Zero electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit on Wednesday.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

"China and the rest of the world is catching up," Biden said. "Well, we're about to turn that around in a big, big way."

Ahead of his speech, Biden toured the GM factory and test-drove an electric Hummer, which he called "one hell of a vehicle."

GM has said it will sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed into law Monday, includes $7.5 billion to build a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations, which could help speed consumer adaptation of clean vehicles. The law also provides $6 billion for low- and no-emission transit vehicles and $5 billion in clean-energy school buses, as well as billions of dollars for highways, roads, bridges, internet access and clean water.

"When you see these projects starting in your hometown, I want you to feel what I feel: pride," Biden said.

Twenty-nine percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, with personal cars and trucks making up the majority of those emissions.

Biden had initially hoped Congress would pass the infrastructure bill in tandem with his social safety net and climate plan, also referred to as Build Back Better, but he was ultimately forced to decouple the bills after Democrats spent months negotiating among themselves over the size and scope of the Build Back Better proposal.

Moderate Democrats have said they will support the social safety net bill if the Congressional Budget Office's cost estimate is consistent with the administration's assessment that it is fully paid for. The nonpartisan office is expected to publish its full cost estimate by Friday.

The legislation includes incentives for manufacturers and consumers to buy and produce electric vehicles, solar panels and other clean energy equipment. But the final scope could change as the bill moves through Congress.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who represents a coal-rich state and whose vote is needed to pass the Democrats' agenda, has repeatedly opposed certain clean energy programs, forcing Biden to cut some proposals from his plan. Manchin has also raised concerns about rising inflation, an issue Republicans plan to campaign on heading into next year's midterm elections.