As House Republicans squabbled Wednesday over who would lead them, President Biden made a uncommon look with Republican Senate Chief Mitch McConnell to advertise a bipartisan infrastructure legislation that can fund long-awaited repairs to an ageing bridge connecting Ohio to northern Kentucky.
The symbolism couldn’t have been stronger.
Standing alongside McConnell and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Biden mentioned he selected the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington, Ky., for his first public look of 2023 to ship “an important message to the entire country.”
“We can work together. We can get things done. We can move forward, but just drop a little bit of our egos and focus on what is needed in the country,” Biden mentioned.
The occasion, organized by the White House, was a victory lap for Biden and McConnell. The president touted a bipartisan legislative achievement whereas the Kentucky senator delivered on an overdue promise to replace the bridge, which carries one of many nation’s busiest freight routes and has come to represent the America’s crumbling infrastructure.
As Biden and McConnell shook palms in Kentucky, hardline Republicans within the House have been blocking Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s fifth try and win a vote to grow to be speaker of House of Representatives — and handing the White House a split-screen second to distinction Biden’s bid for bipartisan cooperation with the divisions roiling the Republican occasion.
“It’s a little embarrassing it’s taking so long and the way they are dealing with one another,” Biden informed reporters earlier than leaving the White House when requested in regards to the ongoing feud. “What I am focused on is getting things done.”
The president introduced greater than $2 billion in funding from the $1-trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Regulation that McConnell and 18 different Republicans supported final yr. The funds will probably be used to restore important bridges throughout the nation, kicking off a White House marketing campaign to spotlight the infrastructure legislation and Biden’s different bipartisan achievements. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Chicago whereas Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited New London, Conn., on Wednesday to advertise Biden’s financial plan.
Repairing the Brent Spence Bridge has bedeviled each Democrats and Republicans for the reason that Federal Freeway Administration declared it functionally out of date within the Nineties. Former President Obama slammed McConnell in 2011 for refusing to assist laws that might improve the bridge, whereas Trump promised to ship the repairs as a candidate in 2016. Biden additionally vowed to “fix that damn bridge” throughout a CNN city corridor in Cincinnati in the summertime of 2021 earlier than the infrastructure invoice cleared Congress.
Biden, who appeared on stage with McConnell, Ohio’s Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and former GOP Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, reiterated his message that regardless of an period of divisive politics, “bright spots” stay throughout the nation.
“The Brent Spence bridge is one of them. A bridge that continues and connects different centuries, different states, different political parties,” he mentioned. “A bridge to the vision of America I know we all believe in where we can work together to get things done.”
Biden, smiling, appeared at instances to enjoy House Republicans’ troubles. He famous Democratic Rep.-elect Greg Landsman of Ohio was unable to attend the infrastructure occasion due to the House stalemate again in Washington.
“I wish him lots of luck,” he joked. “He may be the first freshman ever elected speaker of the House of Representatives.”
The funding can also be a private victory for McConnell, who has lengthy sought a strategy to pay for repairing the deteriorating roadway, in response to Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist in Kentucky and former McConnell aide.
“He’s a pretty savvy operator, and to cede the field to Democrats on fixing one of the longest-standing problems in northern Kentucky — no way,” Jennings mentioned.
The occasion was additionally an opportunity for each Biden and McConnell, two 80-year-old Senate institutionalists, to indicate old-style deal-making can nonetheless exist in a partisan period.
McConnell, identified for his proclivity to dam Democratic presidents’ agendas, has signaled a willingness to work with Biden on extra reasonable laws regardless of his early promise to be a roadblock for the administration.
“We all know these are really partisan times. But I always feel that no matter who gets elected, once it’s all over, we ought to look for things that we can agree on and try to do those, even while we have big differences on other things,” McConnell mentioned earlier than the president spoke.
The previous Senate colleagues, whose relationship spans three a long time, have discovered cooperation since Biden took workplace on points together with infrastructure and boosting home semiconductor manufacturing. As vp, Biden irked some in his occasion for putting a discount with McConnell on a tax deal in 2010 and later in 2012.
“When he gives you his word, you can take it to the bank, you can count on it, and he’s willing to find common ground to get things done for the country,” Biden mentioned of McConnell, noting the 2 didn’t agree on quite a bit.
The concentrate on bipartisanship is essential for each events within the aftermath of November’s midterm elections. Biden, who’s weighing a reelection bid forward of 2024, is keen to showcase his legislative wins as he prepares for a showdown with House Republicans over oversight, the federal price range and the deficit.
McConnell is trying to loosen former President Trump’s grip on the occasion after Republicans’ tepid efficiency in November.
“Independent voters sent a message that they want stability and basic boring governance,” Jennings mentioned.
“I think there’s an open question about the branding of the Republican party. Is the party going to be able to put together a message of stability and governance that is believable and viable ahead of 2024?”