Remarks on Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Please, please be seated. I've got my notes here. Well, good afternoon. If you hear a little noise in the background, it's because I'm supposed to be getting on a helicopter to head to North Carolina, which I'm going to be doing shortly, right after this. And the Vice President and I, though, want to lay out what we've just settled, at least for the moment, with our friends, the bipartisan group of Senators.
I said many times before: There's nothing our Nation can't do when we decide to do it together, do it as one Nation. Today is the latest example of that truth, in my view. I'm pleased to report that a bipartisan group of Senators—five Democrats, five Republicans, part of a larger group—has come together and forged an agreement that will create millions of American jobs and modernize our American infrastructure to compete with the rest of the world and own the 21st century.
I want to thank them for working together and for raising their ideas and concerns with me and with the Vice President, as well as with our jobs Cabinet: Secretaries Buttigieg is here—good to see you, Mr. Secretary. Secretary Fudge. Secretary Granholm. Secretary—there you are—okay, you guys to make sure I—thought everybody was on this side. I was—[laughter]. Secretary Raimondo and Secretary Walsh.
I also want to thank Senator Shelley Capito for her earlier work on an infrastructure agreement. We didn't reach an agreement, but she tried her best to get something done. I'm sure it helped produce the final agreement we have.
Now, the fact is, investment in jobs and infrastructure have often had bipartisan support in the past. Matter of fact, when I first got to the United States Senate, it was probably the least difficult thing to do—is pass infrastructure plans. But even so, it's been a very long time since the last time our country was able to strike a major bipartisan deal on American infrastructure, which is so badly needed, I might add. We devoted far too much energy to competing with one another and not nearly enough energy competing with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.
The investments we'll be making as a result of this deal are long overdue. They'll put Americans to work in good-paying jobs repairing our roads and our bridges. They'll deliver high-speed internet to every American home, bringing down the price that people pay now for internet service. And they'll close the American digital divide—as been driven home by every mother and father with a child at home during the COVID crisis, that is, thank God, abating. And kids not being able to be in school.
This is going to put plumbers and pipefitters to work. It's going to replace a hundred percent of the Nation's lead water pipes so that every child and every American could turn on the faucet at home or at school and drink clean water, including in low-income communities and communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by lead pipes and the consequences of that.
This deal makes key investments to put people to work all across the country building transmission lines, upgrading the power grid to be more energy efficient and resilient in extreme weather—to be able to sustain extreme weather and the climate crisis. It also builds our natural infrastructure—our coastlines and our levees—to be more resilient as well.
American workers will be installing electric vehicle charging stations and undertaking critical environmental cleanups. This bipartisan agreement represents the largest investment in public transit in American history. And I might add that—the largest investment in rail, since the creation of Amtrak. You all know I have nothing but affection for Amtrak, having traveled over a million miles on it, commuting every day. But it's a big deal.
This agreement is going to create a new financing authority that's going to leverage private capital and infrastructure and clean energy projects that will provide folks with good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced—the kinds of jobs that provide middle class—a middle class life with a little bit of breathing room—a little bit of breathing room—for American families.
My dad used to say, "Being in the middle class is just being able to take that extra breath." I mean it sincerely. Think about it. Think about all the people who can't take that breath because they don't—they have no margin for error.
We're—and we're going to do it all without raising a cent from earners below $400,000. There's no gas tax increase, no fee on electric vehicles. And the fact is, we're going to help ensure that—we're going to make sure that everybody in America is in a position to be able to do what need be done.
And so what I've—because—and let me be clear: We're in a race with China and the rest of the world for the 21st century. They're not waiting. They're investing tens of billions of dollars across the board. Tens of billions.
I just came back from Europe with—meeting with the G-7, as well as with NATO, as well as the EU, and as well as with Mr. Putin—all separately. There's massive investment going on in the—among the autocrats. One of the underlying questions is: Can democracies compete with autocratic enterprises in the 21st century? And this is a big move toward that, being able to compete. We have to move, and we have to move fast.
And this agreement singles—signals to the world that we can function, deliver, and do significant things. These investments represent the kind of national effort that, throughout our history, has literally—not figuratively—literally transformed America and propelled us into the future. The transcontinental railroad, the Interstate Highway System—investments that we made together that only our Government was in a position to make.
Now we're poised to add a new chapter in that American tradition. Let me be clear: Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal; that's what it means to compromise. And it reflects something important: It reflects consensus. The heart of democracy requires consensus. And it's time a true—this time a true bipartisan effort, breaking the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place and prevented us from solving the real problems facing the American people.
This deal means millions of good-paying jobs, and fewer burdens felt at the kitchen table and across the country and safer and healthier communities. But it also signals to ourselves and to the world that American democracy can deliver. And because of that, it represents an important step forward for our country.
I want to be clear about something else: Today is a huge day for one-half of my economic agenda, the American Jobs Plan. It delivers on clean transportation, clear water and clean water, universal broadband, clean power infrastructure, and environmental resilience. In these areas, it invests two-thirds of the resources that I proposed in my American Jobs Plan. Two-thirds of what I called for in those areas.
But I'm getting to work with Congress right away on the other half of my economic agenda as well—the American Family Plan—to finish the job on childcare, education, the caring economy, clean energy tax cuts—clean energy, and tax cuts for American families and much more. For me, investment in our physical and human infrastructure are inextricably intertwined. Both make us better off and stronger.
The case for these investments is clear. Economists—left, right, and center—independent Wall Street forecasters, they all say that these kinds of public investments mean more jobs, more workers participating in the labor force, higher productivity, and higher growth for our economy over the long run.
Both need to get done, and I'm going to work closely with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to make sure that both move through the legislative process promptly and in tandem. Let me emphasize that: "and in tandem."
We need physical infrastructure, but we also need the human infrastructure as well. They're a part of my overall plan. What we agreed on today is what we could agree on: the physical infrastructure. There was no agreement on the rest. We're going to have to do that through the budget process. And we need a fairer tax system to pay for it all. I'm not going to rest until it all—both get to my desk.
And lastly, I know there are some of my party who discouraged me from seeking an agreement with our Republican colleagues, who said that we should, "Go bigger and go alone." To them, I say this: I have already shown, in my young Presidency, that I am prepared to do whatever needs to get done to move the country forward. That's what I did with the American Rescue Plan, which was $1.9 trillion.
But let me say this: When we can't—when we can find common ground, though, working across party lines, that is what I will seek to do. The reason why is because broader support for a proposal has—the broader support a proposal has in Congress, the stronger its prospects for passage. Working together when we can allows us to make bipartisan process [progress]* whenever possible without foreclosing the right and the necessity of moving forward on a major—on a majority basis when we are at deep odds with one another, so-called reconciliation progress—process.
And for the deal being announced today, there is plenty of work ahead to bring this home. It's going to require hard work and collaboration. The committee chairs and the ranking members are going to play a major part. There are going to be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to be forged along the way.
But this group of Senators and all of the American people can be proud today because we have reaffirmed, once again, that we are the United States of America. There's not a single thing beyond our capacity that we aren't able to do when we do it together.
I know a lot of you in the press, particularly, doubt that unity is possible, that anything bipartisan is possible. It's hard, but it's necessary. And it can get done.
So I want to thank you all. And God bless you. And now I'll take a few questions, before the helicopter leaves without me, from the press.
Q. Mr. President——
Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation
Q. Mr. President, what assurances do you have at this point that you have sufficient Democratic support, both in the Senate and the House, to move both on this bipartisan deal and on the reconciliation package?
The President. You always ask me those things.
Q. Yes, sir.
The President. Nobody knows for certain. It's your job, but you know it's not a reasonable question. And the reason I say that—I'm not even being critical—the idea of my telling you now that I know what every Senator—how they're going to vote is just not—I don't know that.
I do know that among the roughly 20 bipartisan groups of Senators and Congress—Senators that I met with—only 10 were here today, but that group—that we had an agreement. For example, you know—and you know, they talk about, "Well, why would Biden compromise?" Well, when's the last time—if you had asked me whether or not I'd be able to get passenger rail service or 66 billion dollars' worth, largest investment ever since Amtrak came about. I asked for $90 [billion]* and got $66 billion.
Talk about public transit: $49 billion—$49 billion for public transit. When I raised that before, some of you looked at me like: "Where have you been, Biden? You've been spending too much in China or something." I haven't been to China.
You know, electric buses—$7.5 billion. I asked for $15 [billion].* I couldn't get all of it, but I—we compromised. Electric infrastructure—that is charging stations along the roads. I got—I asked for 15; I got 7½. These are significant down payments on things that we finally got after negotiation—skillful negotiation on the part of my Cabinet and my team, led by Mr. Ricchetti.
And so, when you ask me what guarantee do I have that I have all the votes I need: I don't have any guarantee, but what I do have is a pretty good read, over the years, of how the Congress and the Senate works. And the idea that we're not going—because someone is not going to be able to get every single thing they want, they're going to vote against some of the things that I just named with nothing in here that's, quote, "bad" for the environment, "bad" for the economy, "bad" for the transportation is unlikely. But I can't guarantee it. I—you know that.
Bipartisanship/Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation/Climate Resilience/Energy Efficiency and Weatherization
Q. Mr. President, talk a little more about your interactions with Republicans specifically. You said earlier: "They've given me their word. Where I come from, that's good enough for me." To skeptics in your own party, what is it about the conversations you've had recently with Republicans that gives you so much hope?
And secondly, you had said earlier you might have more to say about the situation down in South Beach, in Miami. I'm just curious——
The President. I'm going to stick to—I will, at the end, answer your South Beach question. But let me—so we have some coherence here.
Number one, I've worked with a lot of these people who are in the room. I know them. Everybody knows and you guys know: When certain Senators tell you something, they mean it. And others you take their—you discount.
Where I come from and the—in my years in the Senate, the single greatest currency you have is your word—keeping your word. Mitt Romney has never broken his word to me. You know, the Senator from Alaska and the Senator of New Hampshire, they've never broken their word—or from Maine—they've never broken their word. They're friends.
And so the people I with—was with today are people that I trust. I don't agree with them on a lot of things, but I trust them when they say: "This is a deal. We'll stick to the deal." Just like I doubt that you'll find any one of them who say they don't trust me when I said, "Okay, this is the deal—on these issues, this is a deal we'll stick with."
But, for example, there's—and I made it clear today—there's other things in the environment I want to get done. I think we should have the $300 billion tax credit for dealing with the environment. It will be a—giant tax cuts for corporations, but it will also be a giant move toward weatherizing every building in America and all the things that we need to do.
So there are things—and so, when I said, "We agree," I'm not going to go back and renegotiate the Amtrak piece, but I am going to fight for trying to get $300 billion more for tax credits for the environment. That's about as best that I can answer the question.
Economic Stimulus Payments/Tax Relief/Education and Family Assistance Legislation/Voting Rights Legislation
Q. Mr. President, can you answer a question—thank you so much. My question is on the timeline. There are families who are looking at the Families Plan and wondering when the help is coming. Can you talk—I know you said they're going to be "promptly and in tandem," but can you say anything more about that?
And what does this signal for future deals? There's still things like voting rights and policing reform that are not able to get bipartisan deals. What does this tell you? What have you learned in talking to Republicans about what would happen in the future?
The President. Let me take—you asked three essay questions—[laughter]—and legitimate questions, but you asked three of them. The first one related to what, again?
Q. The first one is on the timeline. When do you think this two-track—[inaudible]?
The President. Timeline. And you said, "when people are waiting for relief."
The President. I got them——
The President. ——$1.9 trillion in relief so far. They're going to be getting checks in the mail that are consequential, this week, for childcare. A lot has been happened already. Number one.
Number two, I'm going to fight like heck to get them the rest of what I think has to be done. On education, for example, my proposal was, in the Family Plan, early education and free community college. I'm going to fight like the devil to get that done, but it's not going to be with Republican help. I'm going to have to get every Democrat and do it through reconciliation if it gets done. So that's number one.
The—I think, based on my being out on the street and polling data, I think the people who need the help the most trust me to be fighting to get them the help they need. They know who I am, and they know my record.
With regard to the issue of what about voting rights——
The President. Voting rights is maybe the most consequential thing, I think, with—I'm going to be going around the country, spending time making the case to the American people that this just isn't about showing an identification that this is who I am when I vote.
This isn't just about whether or not—excuse me—you can provide water for someone standing in line while they're waiting to vote. This is about who gets to judge whether your vote counted after it's been cast. Think about it.
Up to now, every State and the Federal Government has assumed that there would be officials who were appointed and/or elected in States where the election commissioners—bound by an oath that they would uphold certain requirements to make sure the vote was honest and fair.
What these guys are trying to do now, in rough approximation, is say that, "If we don't like the vote turned out and we control the State legislature, we're going to say the vote didn't count and we're going to recount." That's never happened before. It's wrong. "Who in God's name," as my mother would say, "died and left them boss?" Your vote has to count when you cast it.
There's a lot of ancillary pieces of this legislation that I strongly support. I strongly support the idea that there's no prior—if I had my way, there'd be no private contributions to see who gets elected—how much money you raise. If I had my way—and I think it's really important—that every election day would be a day off because people can't go to—people who work certain shifts can't make it to the election. I would make sure there's automatic registration when you turn 18.
That's what I think everybody thinks this fight is about—and it's a worthy fight—but it's much more profound than that. It's about saying that the legislature in Georgia could decide, if it's a Republican legislature: "You know, on reflection, we don't think that election was fair. We're going to vote to say it didn't count." It's just simply wrong. It's wrong. And in my view, it borders on being immoral.
This is the sacred right to vote. As John Lewis said, "It is the—the—the most important right you have." And so I'm going to be making the case across the country and, as best I can, to see it's overturned.
Q. Mr. President, Mr. President——
Q. Mr. President, do you support critical——
The President. Let me go to this side.
Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation/Education and Family Assistance Legislation
Q. Mr. President, you said you want both of these measures to come to you "in tandem." Did you receive any assurances that that would happen? And how do you anticipate—what will you do if——
The President. I control that.
Q. ——they don't get to you in time?
The President. If they don't come, I'm not signing. Real simple. [Laughter] So, but I expect—I expect that in the—the coming months this summer, before the count—the fiscal year is over, that we will have voted on this bill, as well—the infrastructure bill—as well as voted on the budget resolution.
And that's when they'll—but if only one comes to me, I'm not—and if this is the only thing that comes to me, I'm not signing it. It's in tandem.
The President's Legislative Agenda
Q. So, Mr. President, do you support, then, Speaker Pelosi's stated plan to hold the bipartisan deal in the House until the Senate also passes reconciliation? Do you support that sequencing on her part?
The President. Yes.
Q. Mr. President, Mr. President——
Q. But, Mr. President, your own party is not on the same page about the reconciliation package. So, by moving forward with this two-track system, are you putting the bipartisan bill in jeopardy?
Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation
The President. Sure, the bipartisan bill was—look, the bipartisan bill, from the very beginning, was understood, there was going to have to be the second part of it. I'm not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest I—that I proposed. I proposed a significant piece of legislation in three parts. And all three parts are equally important.
And by the way, my party—you keep—everybody tells me my party is divided. Well, my party is divided. My party is divided, but my party is also rational. If they can't get every single thing they want, but all that they have in the bill is that—before them is good, are they going to vote "no"? I don't think so.
Q. Mr. President——
The President. Yes.
Public Debt Limit/Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation/The President's Approach to Negotiation
Q. Mr. President, are you—48 hours ago, it seemed like this deal was in, kind of, a rough place or didn't necessarily have a path forward. What clinched it? What changed the dynamic that you saw? And also, would you be willing to include a debt ceiling increase in either of the two vehicles you're talking about?
The President. There's probably going have to be debt ceiling. Whether it's included in either of these bills is not relevant. It depends on what the leadership in the House and Senate thinks how they should proceed, number one.
Number two, you notice, I didn't have that bleak view you all had. You said, 48 hours ago, it didn't look good. It looked good to me 48 hours ago. It looked good to our team 48 hours ago. Seventy-two hours ago, it looked good too. It wasn't there yet.
But you guys know me too well. And it's—I'm going to drive you crazy the next 4 years, because I'm going to tell you the truth as I see it. I know the Senate and the House better than most of you know it. I've been—my whole life, that's what I've done.
It doesn't mean I'm going to turn out to be right all the time, but I'm not going to negotiate with the press while I'm negotiating with the—in privately with my colleagues. And these are really tough decisions Senators have got. I don't, in any way, dismiss what Senator Murphy says about the environment. I don't dismiss it at all. I just remind him: I wrote the bill on the environment. Why would I not be for it?
The question is: How much can we get done? And the bottom line is: When all is said and done, does what you agree to preclude, forever, you getting the things you really want? Well, I'm not for that. I'm not going to vote for one of those deals.
Secondly, do you get all of what you wanted? Or do you come back and fight another day? I've been President about 150 days. I think we've done fairly well so far. Not because of me, but because of the way the system works.
So it's not—I mean, I—I know that doesn't answer any of your questions about, "Can you tell me when?" and "How are you going to do it?" I just feel that the best way to get a Senator or a Congressperson who supports the essence of what's already there, but says, "I don't have enough of what's there, of other things"—the best way to get that message across is go to the constituents and say: "Here's what's on the table. Do you think your Senator, your Congressman should vote for that?"
So you campaign. The campaign doesn't stop; the partisan piece stops, in terms of, "I'm against Charlie Smith or Harriet Wilson." But that doesn't stop—I mean, that stops. But what doesn't stop is just saying, "You're"—it's like on a—last example I'll give. I promise I won't do this to you again. But remember: In 2018, everybody said: "Well, you know, we're going to lose. The Democrats are going to lose. You know, the House and Senate, they're not going to make—the House is not going to make gains."
And I went into over 60 congressional districts. I didn't go after the individual Congresspersons who were against making sure that we kept the Affordable Care Act. But I went to their constituents and said, "The Affordable Care Act is really important." We had large crowds show up. And I'd say: "Here's why I think you should do it. That's why, if I were you, I'd take a look at what Charlie Smith says and Harriet Wilson says. He's for it. She's not." Or "She's for it; he's not." And guess what? We won, what, 40 some seats?
So, it's not just convincing this particular Congressperson. It's making a rational case, if you can, in their communities why this is important to get done.
And I think the fact that I didn't get everything now at this moment—for example, a lot of our housing pieces didn't get passed. We're coming back at it though. We're coming back at it. We're going to make the case. And if I make the case to the public at large—the one thing I can say for all of you, you do accurately report what I say. The problem is I disappoint you because I can't answer all your questions and negotiate with you before I negotiate with my colleagues.
But I really think we—the public understands, and they're seeing the proof is in what's happening. It's now projected our economy is going to grow above 7 percent this year. Projections from Wall Street to the Fed: It's going to continue to grow. We're going to increase more—and guess what?
Remember you were asking me—and I'm not being critical of you all; I really mean this. It was legitimate questions you were asking me—asking me: "Well, you know, guess what? Employers can't find workers." I said: "Yes. Pay them more." This is an employee's bargaining chip now, what's happening. They're going to have to compete and start playing [paying]* hard-working people a decent wage.
And by the way—talking inflation—the overwhelming consensus is it's going to pop up a little bit and then go back down. No one is talking about, "This great, great deal."
So, again, if it turns out that what I've done so far—what we've done so far is a mistake, it's going to show. It's going to show. The economy is not going to grow, like it wasn't before. People aren't going to have jobs with increased pay, like it was before. People are going to be out of work, like it was before, with no options. Unemployment is going to continue to climb, instead of continue to go down. If that happens, then my policies didn't make a lot of sense, but I'm counting on it not. That's my counting how it's working.
I've got to get a helicopter—[inaudible]. Thanks again.
Collapse of the Champlain Towers South Condominium Building in Surfside, Florida/Federal Assistance
Q. Mr. President, will you travel to Florida, sir?
Q. Can we ask you about Florida—what you've learned and what you've—[inaudible]?
The President. Oh, yes. I apologize. Yes, thank you. [Laughter] Madame Vice President. I've spoken with, coincidentally, the mayor of Miami-Dade was in my office yesterday. And I talked to her today—not about that, obviously—and so I had a long discussion with her today.
I've also spoken with—we've been in contact with the Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has that district. We've gotten in touch with FEMA. They're ready to go. The Governor is going to have to—we can't—they're—they're down inspecting in what is—what they think is needed. But I'm waiting for the Governor to ask for—declare an emergency if—and especially as we learn more about what the rest—might happen with the rest of the building.
So we are on top of it. We are ready to move, from the Federal resources, immediately—immediately, if in fact we're asked for it. But we can't go in and do it—now, but the—FEMA is down there taking a look at what's needed, and—including from everything from—if the rest of those buildings have to be evacuated as well; finding housing for those people; making sure they have the capacity to both have a place to shelter and food to eat, et cetera.
So that's underway now, and I'm—my Chief of Staff has been deeply involved in this from the very beginning. We've got the Cabinet involved in it now, in terms of dealing with FEMA. We're working on it. And I made it clear that I say to the people of Florida: Whatever help you want that the Federal Government can provide, we're waiting. Just ask us; we'll be there. We'll be there.
So thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Vice President Kamala D. Harris's Visit to the Mexico-U.S. Border
Q. Mr. President, one quick question—what are you hoping the Vice President can do at the border tomorrow?
The President. She's done a great job so far. And the reason why it's important that she go down: She's now set up the criteria, having spoken with the President of Mexico and Guatemala, visited the region to know what we need to do.
Thank you very much.
Evacuation of Afghan Interpreters and Other Service Contractors Who Assisted With U.S. Military Operations in Afghanistan
Q. Do you know anything on these reports about moving Afghan nationals to other countries who helped during the war?
The President. They're going to come. We've already begun the process. Those who helped us are not going to be left behind.
Q. Do you know what country they're going to move to first?
The President. I don't know that. I'll be meeting with the—with Ghani tomorrow, the head—he's coming to my office. That will be a discussion. But they're welcome here, just like anyone else who risked their lives to help us.
Q. Thank you, sir.
Q. Any more—any more——
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:03 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; Counselor to the President Steven J. Ricchetti; Sens. Lisa A. Murkowski and Susan M. Collins; Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County, FL; Gov. Ronald D. DeSantis of Florida; White House Chief of Staff Ronald A. Klain; President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico; President Alejandro Giammattei Falla of Guatemala; and President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai of Afghanistan.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/350599