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Biden visits Cleveland as he seeks a potential compromise on infrastructure deal

Joe Biden in Cleveland.
Posted at 1:25 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 15:15:07-04

CLEVELAND — President Joe Biden on Thursday traveled to Cleveland to deliver remarks on his proposed $1.9 trillion infrastructure and investment plan.

In his speech at Cuyahoga County Community College, Biden touted the economic progress the U.S. has made since he took office in January, claiming that the COVID-19 stimulus package was the catalyst to begin building back.

"From a year of darkness, we are now emerging into the light," Biden said Thursday.

He added that his infrastructure and jobs investment plan would significantly build on that momentum. He touted the package as a win for the middle class, noting that it would be paid for by simply raising tax rates for wealthy Americans and corporations to levels that they've been at this century.

"I believe this is a moment to rebuild an economy from the bottom down and middle out, not a trickle-down economy," Biden said.

Calling his package a "generational investment," Biden said the package would provide more education opportunities for children of the middle class.

Biden also called on Congress directly to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"No one should work 40 hours a week and have to face poverty," Biden said.

Biden has faced criticism from progressive Democrats for not doing more to advance a minimum wage hike.

The original version of Biden's proposed COVID-19 stimulus bill contained a provision that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The administration agreed to remove that provision after an independent parliamentarian determined it could not be included in the bill if were to be introduced as budget reconciliation.

Biden's visit comes as he attempts to forge a compromise with Republicans in the hopes of reaching a deal with Republicans to pass a bipartisan version of the infrastructure plan. His remarks came just hours after Republicans released their counterproposal to Biden, which totals less than $1 trillion.

Biden hopes to find an ally for his plan in Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican who is finishing up his final term on Capitol Hill.

President Joe Biden visits Cleveland

"I told the White House and the president that I believe in this case we can find common ground," Portman recently told WEWS. "This is one where there is no excuse for us not figuring out a good bipartisan solution."

Psaki said the Biden administration was open to working with Portman.

"Well, we agree and we certainly welcome that openness by Sen. Portman," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told WEWS. "Even though people feel like there's no bipartisanship happening, there is."

Where they disagree is in how to pay for the plan. The White House wants to raise taxes on the Americans making more than $400,000 a year, while Republicans feel funding can be raised in other ways.

"With regards to real infrastructure, there are opportunities for 'payfors,' including user fees and including the gas tax, which still generates billions of dollars," Portman said. "And, including public-private partnerships and ways to use the government leverage to infrastructure bank to be able to pay for these over time, because these are long-term capital expenditures."

The trip comes a year after Biden's campaign stop in Cleveland during the 2020 campaign was canceled due to the pandemic. Both Biden and Bernie Sanders were to have competing rallies in Cleveland on March 10, 2020, one week ahead of the state's primary.

Within hours, both were canceled as the state began the process of shutting down large gatherings in an effort to get ahead of the pandemic.

Biden flew instead to Philadelphia as all in-person campaigning stopped.

This story was originally published by John Kosich and Joe Donatelli on Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland.