President Joe Biden will begin the new year with a bipartisan show of support to highlight one of his major legislative victories, appearing in Kentucky with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to announce a major infrastructure project funded by the infrastructure law.
The meeting with McConnell, R-Ky., and other regional leaders from both parties on Wednesday reflects a dual focus for a White House hoping to stay above the political fray in 2023. The stop, and others like it this week featuring other administration officials across the country, will take place a day after the new Republican-led House of Representatives takes power in Washington, ushering in a period of divided government as the campaign for the 2024 presidential election begins to take shape.
After two years of tough legislation in a Democratic-controlled Congress, administration officials see 2023 as a year primarily focused on implementing Biden’s signature economic initiatives, such as steps to boost semiconductor manufacturing under the CHIPS Act and new cost-cutting measures under the Inflation Reduction Act.
However, the bipartisan infrastructure bill will be front and centre, with the White House claiming that 20,000 new projects funded by the law will begin in the coming year.
In 2021, the president launched a major public campaign to rally support for the infrastructure bill with a televised town hall in Cincinnati, where he promised to “fix that damn bridge of yours going into Kentucky” — a reference to the Brent Spence Bridge, a key interstate crossing classified as “functionally obsolete” that has long been held up as an example of the need for major new investment in roads, bridges, and other public works projects.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, announced last week that they had secured $1.6 billion from the infrastructure bill to replace the bridge.
On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris will speak in Chicago, while Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will speak in Connecticut. Mitch Landrieu, White House infrastructure coordinator, will visit San Francisco on Thursday, one week after outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the city’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge will undergo a $400 million retrofit funded by the law.
While acknowledging that more work is needed and that setbacks are possible, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and senior adviser Anita Dunn wrote in a year-end memo that there is “clear evidence that President Biden’s economic strategy of growing the economy from the bottom up and the middle out is working.”
Aside from focusing on implementing the president’s previous legislative initiatives, top White House aides insist the president intends to pursue additional legislative initiatives that they believe could — or should — garner support in a divided Congress. Bipartisanship is expected to be a major focus of Biden’s State of the Union address, which will also outline his intentions for 2024.
“I’ve never felt more optimistic about America in my entire career,” Biden said on ABC’s New Year’s Eve special. “We’ve been through so much, so much difficulty, the pandemic, flu, and a variety of other things. And look how the American people fought back, and how they got up, and how — nothing can keep them down.”
The appearance was one of the president’s first public appearances since he and members of his family arrived in the US Virgin Islands last week. Though he has stated that he will discuss a possible reelection bid during such holiday gatherings, NBC News reported in October that first lady Jill Biden and the rest of the Biden family are fully supportive of another campaign. When asked if the 2024 election had come up in this week’s discussions, Biden joked, “There’s an election coming up?”