Biden to tout agenda during visit to union training center in Howell

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

President Joe Biden will visit a union training facility in Howell on Tuesday afternoon to drum up support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill and social and climate policy bill being considered on Capitol Hill. 

Biden will fly into Capital Region International Airport in Lansing shortly after 1 p.m. on Tuesday and head to Howell, where he'll speak at Local 324 of the International Union of Operating Engineers' Construction Career Center shortly after 3:30 p.m.

The president will speak on "his bipartisan infrastructure bill and Build Back Better agenda, which will grow our economy by investing in working families, paid for by repealing tax giveaways to the rich," the White House said Monday.

He will be joined by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, according to her office. Slotkin represents the area in Congress and is up for reelection next year.

The president's visit comes as the fate of his agenda hangs in the balance in Washington. The moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party are at odds over what to include and how much to spend in the social services and climate legislation, which will need unanimous support in the caucus to pass the evenly divided Senate.

President Joe Biden.

The president and top Democrats claim the majority of Americans support the policies in both plans. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill would invest in the nation's roads, bridges, public transit, broadband internet and more.

The social and climate policy bill, initially estimated at $3.5 trillion, would overhaul the social safety net by expanding paid leave, child care programs, child tax credits and Medicare coverage and implement universal preschool and two years of free community college.

It would also pour funding into efforts to attempt to slow climate change, such as tax incentives for clean energy adoption and consumer rebates for electric vehicles. It would be paid for in part by tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations. 

Republicans have argued that the cost is too high and the proposed tax increases would hurt economic growth.

Democrats are working to draw the party's centrists on board, who insist the bill's $3.5 trillion top line figure is too high, while retaining support from the party's left wing, which would like the package to be bigger and already considers the proposal a compromise.

Slotkin is among the Democratic centrists who has not committed to supporting the more costly legislation. She has said she'll consider the package when it's finalized, and that if it's fiscally responsible and is good for her district she would vote for it.

Slotkin does want to see a swift vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package.

"I'm just a believer that you strike when the iron is hot, and that a bipartisan deal in Washington does not have a long shelf life. So you should move quickly when you have a deal," Slotkin told The Detroit News last month.

Democrats are racing to negotiate a deal both wings of the party can support after missing a self-imposed deadline of late September to pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan, which has already passed the Senate. Progressives said they would not vote on the bipartisan plan without assurances of a vote on the larger package, fearing they would lose leverage to get the full agenda passed.

Biden urged the party on Friday not to decouple the two bills. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Monday the party now plans to pass both plans before the end of October, when funding for major transportation programs runs out. 

The president's approval ratings have dropped in Michigan and nationwide in recent weeks as the pull-out from Afghanistan, a surge in the delta variant of the coronavirus and ongoing tension over the legislative proposals hamper public sentiment, according to recent polling. 

Around 39% of Michigan voters approved of his performance and 53% disapproved, according to an Aug. 31-Sept. 3 survey of 600 registered voters by the Glengariff Group

Among those contributing to the decline in approval are "leaning Democratic" voters whose approval decreased by 32% and independent voters whose approval dipped by 11%, said Richard Czuba, president of Glengariff. 

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge also visited Michigan on Monday to promote the administration's agenda and its investments in housing construction and rehabilitation, economic development, and community revitalization.

In a trip to Detroit, Fudge visited three senior housing complexes and assured residents "it's a new day in this country." Fudge toured the newly redeveloped Thome Rivertown complex, Delta Manor near Eastern Market and Clement Kern Gardens in Corktown in her first visit to the city as HUD secretary.

"We have a president who cares not only just in his head, but in his heart," Fudge said outside Delta Manor. "We have senators who are willing to do their part and I promise you, they will find a way to get done what needs to get done."

Biden last visited Michigan in June during the Traverse City Cherry Festival. During that visit, he toured a farm, bought some pies and met with supporters who came out to shake his hand and get photos.

He also came to Metro Detroit in mid-May, when he visited the Ford Motor Co. Rouge Electric Vehicle Center to present his $174 billion plan to dominate the burgeoning electric vehicle market.

The Howell visit will be Biden's fourth trip to Michigan during his nearly 10 months in office. His predecessor, former President Donald Trump, didn't visit the state for the fourth time until nearly three years into his presidency — in December 2019.

Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.

Twitter: @rbeggin