President Biden told a union audience in Michigan on Tuesday that anyone who opposes his massive, stalled economic spending packages on infrastructure and social welfare is “complicit in America’s decline.”
“These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another,” Mr. Biden said.
The president traveled to Howell, Michigan, to win over voters even as he struggles to make the same sales pitch to his fellow Democratic lawmakers.
The president’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package and a larger $3.5 trillion bill to expand the social safety net remain in limbo as progressive and moderate Democrats bicker over the size and scope of both proposals.
With Democrats deadlocked, Mr. Biden made the case to the public for his agenda. He argued that his economic proposals will expand and grow the middle class.
In remarks at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 training facility, Mr. Biden pledged to breathe “new life” into the U.S. economy.
“The only thing we’ve been missing is the will from Washington to finally build an economy around you,” he said. “An economy that gives you and your family a fighting chance to get ahead gives our country a fighting chance to compete with the rest of the world.”
The president quoted statistics from Moody’s Analytics, which estimates that his spending package could create 2 million jobs per year.
“That’s going to be transformative,” he said.
Mr. Biden also pushed the $3.5 trillion plan’s spending on education, claiming it is necessary if the U.S. wants to remain competitive with China.
He also cited a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that ranks the U.S. as 35th in education spending among the 37 industrialized nations.
“We’ve taken our foot off the gas, the world has taken notice, including our adversaries, and now they are closing the gap,” he said.
The president also said the U.S. has fallen behind China in infrastructure and labor because of their economic investments in their workers. He cited electric car manufacturing as one of the key industries in which the U.S. has fallen behind China.
“China is not waiting around,” Mr. Biden continued, noting that they have produced twice as many electric cars than the U.S. in the past year.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Mr. Biden is misrepresenting the cost of his economic agenda and that its high price tag will damage the economy.
“Michiganders like myself know that trillions of dollars in reckless spending means higher taxes on working families and financial ruin for small businesses,” she said in a statement.
The trip to Michigan reflects a new, more hands-on strategy for Mr. Biden while his economic packages remained stalled. Previously holed up in the White House making private calls to lawmakers, Mr. Biden has been increasingly visible in recent days.
He traveled to Capitol Hill on Friday to meet with lawmakers and this week hosted virtual discussions with progressive and conservative Democrats. Mr. Biden will also hit the road to Chicago on Thursday to drum up support for his agenda.
By heading to Howell, Mr. Biden is hoping to reach centrist voters and rally them to pressure Democratic lawmakers into supporting his plan.
Howell is located in a swing district ahead of the 2022 midterms. The district, which includes heavily liberal Lansing and Republican suburbs, went heavily for former President Donald Trump in the last two elections.
In the 2020 presidential election, Mr. Trump bested Mr. Biden there by 60.5% to 37.9%. Mr. Trump also beat Hillary Clinton 61.7% to 47.3%.
Despite the overwhelming Trump victory in the district, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a centrist Democrat, narrowly won reelection, 50.9% to 47.3%.
Ms. Slotkin voted in August to begin debate on the $3.5 trillion spending plan, but did not offer her full support of the measure.
“If it’s transformative and important for my constituents … then I’ll consider it. I’m not going to give my vote away without a bill [to read first],” Ms. Slotkin told the Detroit Free Press at the time.
Ms. Slotkin has enthusiastically endorsed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, however.
White House deputy secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One that the trip to Michigan doesn’t reflect concerns about Ms. Slotkin’s midterm prospects. She said the trip was to promote the plan to the American people.
Recent polls show mixed results for the president in both Michigan and the nation as a whole.
A national poll released last week from Pew Research Center found more than half of those surveyed support versions of his infrastructure and $3.5 trillion spending packages, but a majority also disapproved of Mr. Biden‘s job as president.
A separate poll from the Detroit Regional Chamber also found Mr. Biden‘s support dropping in the swing state. The poll found that 53% disapprove of his job performance, with only 39% approving.