Vice President Kamala Harris claimed Monday that Americans are sleeping better now that she and President Biden are in power and said the White House has no plans to slow its agenda of massively higher spending, major tax hikes and transformative social programs.
In her first major economic speech, Ms. Harris told an audience in right-to-work North Carolina that the administration’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan is linked to Democrats’ push for more unionization.
She said taxpayer-subsidized home health care and child care, also in the spending proposal, should become a “foundational support system for our nation.”
At the administration’s 90-day mark, the vice president said Americans are feeling a sense of relief. She said nearly 200 million people in the U.S. will soon have received COVID-19 vaccinations, about 159 million have received stimulus checks and more are benefiting from job creation.
“Help is here,” she said at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown. “And hope is here, and things are looking up. Schools are reopening, businesses are reopening, grandparents are seeing their grandchildren in person.”
She said, “We are delivering real, real relief, and the American people are now able to breathe easier and sleep better.”
The vice president didn’t mention in her speech the migrant crisis at the southern border, a problem Mr. Biden has delegated to her. She has come under fire for not visiting the border region in the month since she was named the administration’s point person on the issue.
Top House Republicans on Monday wrote to Ms. Harris to ask for a meeting on a “direction or a plan” for the border. They said it’s time for her to get engaged on the issue.
The vice president told reporters Monday that the White House is making progress on the border but said the effort will “require a long-standing commitment beyond administrations.” She said she will host this week “foundation leaders from across our country to really encourage them to do more in terms of the civil society piece of this” to strengthen systems in countries such as Honduras and Guatemala.
She said she even asked Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during his visit to Washington last week to help with the migrant problem on the southern border.
Ms. Harris will travel to a border state Friday, but it’s New Hampshire, along the Canadian border.
She will stop at a union local headquarters in Concord, WMUR-TV reported. It will be her first trip to the state that holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary since she ended her own campaign in December 2019.
In North Carolina on Monday, the vice president visited a Daimler-owned Thomas Built Buses manufacturing plant in High Point to drive the message that the American Jobs Plan would provide $20 billion to convert one-fifth of the nation’s nearly 500,000 yellow school buses from diesel to electric. The proposal is part of the administration’s climate change plan to reduce emissions.
An electric bus can cost $400,000, two or three times more than a traditional bus that runs on diesel or other fuel. In Virginia, Dominion Energy is paying for the difference in bus costs and for charging stations to help school districts with the changeover.
A plant official told Ms. Harris that no schools have charging stations yet. It takes about three hours to charge a bus, and the charge could last one day, depending on the bus route.
The plant, with about 1,400 workers, is a union shop represented by the United Auto Workers.
Perhaps more than any other recent Democratic administration, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are linking their agenda closely to the prospect of expanded unionization in the U.S.
“The best way … to get a good job is through a strong union,” Ms. Harris said. “Union members have better pay, better health care, better retirement, better protections on the job. I believe every worker in America deserves the ability to organize or join a union. At a good job, you shouldn’t have to worry about your safety at work. At a good job, you shouldn’t have to go into debt for a diploma that promises a decent paycheck.”
She said the jobs plan also would expand opportunities for women. “Hard hats are actually unisex,” she said.
Less than two weeks earlier, Amazon soundly defeated an effort to unionize workers at its massive warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.
In Greensboro, Ms. Harris visited the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, site of a former Woolworth store where young Blacks held a sit-in protest in 1960 that led to restaurant integration in many cities.
The administration’s big-spending infrastructure proposal, which would raise taxes on corporations and individuals earning more than $400,000 annually, faces stiff opposition from congressional Republicans. Mr. Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House on Monday to seek support for the plan.
The vice president said the infrastructure plan, coming on top of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, is just a start.
“We are not done,” Ms. Harris said. “The president and I are ready to keep going. And we are not going to take it slow. And we are not going to take it one step at a time. Nope, we are going to take a giant leap into the future.”
She referred to the infrastructure plan as “a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation investment in America’s infrastructure, in America’s future.”
“North Carolina, the president and I are determined to get this done,” she said. “Like Americans everywhere, we are not afraid of the hard work it will take.”
The 15-minute address showed that Ms. Harris plans to take a more visible role in promoting the jobs program. North Carolina is a perennial swing state and will be the setting for perhaps the most contested Senate race in the country next year as the parties vie to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican.
Former Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, announced his candidacy last week. Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of former President Donald Trump, also is weighing a Senate bid.
Mr. McCrory said Ms. Harris’ tiebreaking vote in the 50-50 Senate is “giving the left everything they want to radically change America for generations to come.”
“It’s time we join together and take back the Senate from Kamala Harris,” he said.
The vice president defended what has been called “human infrastructure” in the administration’s spending proposal: hundreds of billions of dollars for home health care for the elderly and for child care.
“It keeps working people working,” the vice president said. “Care should be readily available and affordable to working people. Care infrastructure is a basic foundational support system for our nation. It is past time that we invest in it.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, who was at the White House meeting Monday, said Republicans want the package to focus “our highest priorities” for more traditional infrastructure needs.
“And those things which are simply a continuation of long-standing progressive policy preferences are unlikely to find much bipartisan support,” Mr. Romney said.