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White House infrastructure promotion push to include top Cabinet officials

The road show begins Wednesday with President Joe Biden himself traveling to the Port of Baltimore even before he’s signed the bill into law.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is deploying top Cabinet officials as part of an all-out push to promote his infrastructure bill, hoping the much-needed win will translate to a political boost.

The White House is hoping to shift the spotlight away from inside-the-Beltway process fights — mainly in the president’s own party — to the bipartisan proposal’s most popular components, with a focus on road projects, clean energy and expanded broadband.

A White House official said the sales pitch will take administration officials “to red states, blue states, big cities, small towns, rural areas, tribal communities and more to translate what this deal means for real people across the country.”

It starts Wednesday with the president himself traveling to the Port of Baltimore even before he’s signed the bill into law. Officials are also preparing for a major bill-signing event that will include the plan’s Democratic and Republican sponsors, labor and business leaders and representatives from groups that will benefit from it.

The road show by the administration will focus primarily on five areas: traditional road, bridge and rail projects led by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; clean energy proposals led by Interior Secretary Deborah Haaland; modernization of the nation’s electrical grid, led by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm; expanded broadband access led by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; and efforts to replace lead pipes, led by EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

“A lot of this sells itself because communities never needed to be persuaded that their bridge needed to be fixed or that their airport needed an upgrade or that their ports needed investment,” Buttigieg said as he kicked off the effort in the White House briefing Monday. “I do think it's important for us to go out there, especially in communities where a member of Congress or the Senate played an important role and as you know, members from both sides of the aisle played important roles in delivering this bipartisan win, and I can't wait to be out there celebrating good news.”

To further promote the legislation, Biden on Monday gave an interview to Local12, a CBS television affiliate in Cincinnati. The president said Ohio could expect to see billions of dollars flowing into the state's economy within weeks for highways and bridges, among other areas.

"I think you'll start to see it happen a little in a matter of weeks, for example, in your state," Biden said.

However, the challenge for the White House and Democrats more broadly is clear. When the Senate first passed the infrastructure plan in August, Biden’s job approval rating was over 50 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average. Now, it’s sunk to 42 percent, and a new USA Today poll found Democrats in Congress trailed in a generic midterm ballot test by 8 percentage points.

Asked about his approval rating during Monday's interview, Biden said the his numbers were no different than those of his predecessors at this point in their presidencies.

At this point in his presidency, former President Barack Obama had a 52 percent approval rating, while former President Donald Trump had a 38 percent approval rating, according to Gallup.

In discussing his poll numbers, Biden also suggested that some voters might not be aware of some of his policies.

"We're in a situation where...they don't feel it right now," he said.

The infrastructure plan itself has generally polled more strongly, and the White House hopes to piggyback on that in a bid to regain political momentum as it still aims to push forward his largest social spending plan.

Buttigieg sold the idea of both bills together as part of a “Big Deal” that would be the Biden administration’s answer to the New Deal under President Franklin Roosevelt.

“They’re going to make sure that America can compete and win in the decades ahead,” he said.