Biden's infrastructure plan tests his definition of bipartisanship

The Biden administration often says that though their policies are not getting...

Posted: May 3, 2021 1:12 PM

The Biden administration often says that though their policies are not getting bipartisan support in Congress, they're widely supported by Americans across the country. But as President Joe Biden embarks on a multi-state tour to promote his sweeping infrastructure and jobs plan, that argument is being tested.

CNN spoke to dozens of voters -- Democrats, Republicans and independents -- in Yorktown, Virginia, about Biden's plans to reshape the economy ahead of the President's trip to the area on Monday. Yorktown is part of a district that went for Biden by five points in 2020 after narrowly backing Donald Trump four years earlier. Residents there showed mixed support for Biden's infrastructure proposals, indicating the President has some work to do to convince everyday Americans to back his plan.

"It's big. I can't see why anybody would not be worried about that. I don't want to pay any more taxes any more than anyone else," said Rick Calvert, an independent who voted for Biden in November.

Biden went to southeastern Virginia on Monday to make the case to the public for his roughly $4 trillion, two-part plan to help the nation's economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Taken together, the plans would provide large-scale investments in education, child care, paid family leave, traditional infrastructure -- like train lines and airports -- and green energy.

Unlike Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package -- which was signed into law in March without support from Republicans in Congress but remained broadly popular among Americans -- the President has yet to fully convince the American public to support his infrastructure plan. Numerous polls have indicated that infrastructure is low on Americans' list of policy priorities.

However, a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken earlier this month indicated that many Americans remain undecided on where they stand on the President's latest legislative push, giving Biden the opportunity to make his case. The poll also showed that more Americans support than oppose the bill, with 45% backing the bill, 27% opposing it and 28% remaining undecided.

Many of the Virginians who spoke with CNN said they approved of Biden's vision and highlighted specific pieces they liked, such as the plan's education initiatives. But others objected to its far-reaching scope.

Donna Elliott, a Republican, said she liked the plan's investments in traditional infrastructure, but said the administration's plan to include other priorities goes too far.

"When you take the word infrastructure and stretch the definition of it, I am thinking wow, wow, wow -- I thought infrastructure was roads, tunnels, highways, trains, buses," Elliott said.

Gene Sutton, an independent voter, said he'd like Biden to slow down.

"We can't do everything at once. Maybe pick and choose some programs that both parties can agree on and go with that and not try to do too much at one time," Sutton said.

However, there were signs Biden's approach may have broader appeal.

Lewis Jones, who says he typically votes for Republicans, said "the little guy is going to be given a leg up" if money in the plan is used appropriately.

The White House has said they're open to negotiations on the size of the proposals and how to pay for them. Biden will meet with members of both parties in the coming weeks to discuss the plans.

It is unclear whether lawmakers will consider Biden's two plans together or separately. It is also unclear whether Democrats will try to pass the legislation the same way they did with Biden's Covid-19 relief bill, which had no Republican support.

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