© 2024 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Biden's East Coast tour trumpets new projects funded by 2021 infrastructure law


President Biden loves trains and loves bipartisan legislative accomplishments. This week, he's been promoting both. He's touring the East Coast to trumpet new projects funded by the 2021 infrastructure law. NPR's Scott Detrow reports the events show how Biden is approaching the presidency.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Hello, hello, hello.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: On Tuesday, Joe Biden was in his element, flanked by train cars and union workers, praising other politicians...


BIDEN: This is Chuck Schumer day, pal. You got it done.

DETROW: ...All in a rail yard deep underneath Manhattan's West Side. The day before, he'd been in Baltimore doing pretty much the same thing.


BIDEN: I walked through that sucker, too. No, you think I'm joking. I'm not. Man, this has been - when you commute on a highway every single day - and that was my highway - you get interested in when things - you're told that things are falling apart.

DETROW: All week, Biden is traveling up and down the Northeast Corridor he used to ride every day as a senator. He's taking a victory lap for steering federal funding to long-stalled major projects to replace century-old tunnels that slowed down the commute of him and millions of other train riders. In New York, Biden announced nearly $300 million to begin the process of digging a new rail tunnel to replace the only one between New York and New Jersey.


BIDEN: But it's going to be safer, more resilient, more reliable and the biggest rail line in the United States of America.

DETROW: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been championing the project for decades.


CHUCK SCHUMER: Now, you can use whatever train metaphor you want - any one you want - but get on the Joe Biden express now because we are not stopping.

DETROW: Of course, the bill funding these projects was passed and signed back in 2021, and the projects won't be complete for years and years. But holding these victory laps now certainly has a political purpose for Biden. They show voters he got major things accomplished, even if the prospect for more big victories is dimmer with Republicans in charge of the House. Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu pushes back on that view. Flying to the announcement aboard Air Force One, Landrieu, who Biden tasked with implementing the infrastructure law, says the government has been ramping up funding and will keep doing so all year.


MITCH LANDRIEU: We have intense focus every day, all day. It's all about hurry the hell up and get it done from the president's perspective. So that's just the way we roll.

DETROW: And he argues voters don't need to be reminded about all the big projects it's funding.


LANDRIEU: You know, it's a myth that people don't know about these projects. If nobody knew about it, people would quit taking credit for all of them.

DETROW: But Biden has said several times lately that his administration needs to do more to sell its accomplishments to voters. And, of course, he'll have a big platform to do that next week in a State of the Union address. He's been testing out lines in recent speeches - New York, Baltimore, Virginia. And you can hear clear themes emerging - the argument he's been breaking through government logjams...


BIDEN: To have the best economy in the world, you have to have the best infrastructure in the world. People don't build factories where there are not rail stations, where there are not ports, where there are not access to highways.

DETROW: ...That he's prioritizing working-class voters...


BIDEN: Where the hell is written that say America can't lead the world again in manufacturing? Where is that written?

DETROW: ...And that even as he talks up bipartisan accomplishments, Biden is drawing clear contrasts with Republicans.


BIDEN: Look, you know, this ain't your father's Republican Party. This is a different breed of cat, as they say.

DETROW: Those themes all sound like those of a president running for a second term. Biden has not declared he's running yet, but he's certainly acting like it.

Scott Detrow, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
More from Hawai‘i Public Radio