After Stimulus, Biden to Tackle Another Politically Tricky Issue: Infrastructure

Mr. Biden campaigned on a sprawling infrastructure agenda, with trillions of dollars invested in transportation, water and sewer lines, and the scaffoldings of an energy sector that significantly reduces the United States’ carbon emissions, funded by tax increases on multinational companies and high earners.

The components of the plan poll well — which was not enough for Mr. Biden’s predecessors.

Mr. Obama failed, in large part, for political reasons: Republicans did not want to give him another victory. His attempt at selling Congress on a $50 billion plan to rebuild 150,000 miles of road, to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of rail track and to restore 150 miles of airport runways suffered for following on the heels of his 2009 stimulus bill. Republicans dismissed it as “stimulus déjà vu.”

While Mr. Trump talked frequently about investing in infrastructure, he never seemed serious about tackling the issue and constantly allowed other matters to distract him. For instance, in August 2017, the Trump administration organized an event at Trump Tower in Manhattan that was intended to highlight how the administration was seeking to streamline permitting.

Instead, the news conference devolved into one of the grimmest and most defining moments of the Trump presidency: a fiery back-and-forth with reporters in which Mr. Trump defended white supremacists who had recently marched in Charlottesville, Va., arguing that there were “very fine people on both sides.”

When it came to selling a message about infrastructure, “we had some challenges in communication,” said D.J. Gribbin, an infrastructure specialist who was in charge of the event while working for the National Economic Council.

Lobbyists say that Mr. Biden starts with a better chance of success than either of his predecessors.

Business groups and many Republicans have expressed a willingness to work with the administration to pass $1 trillion or more in infrastructure spending. Areas of agreement with progressives include spending on highways, bridges, rural broadband networks, water and sewer lines and even some cornerstones of fighting climate change, like electric-car charging stations.

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