Politics

Cedric Richmond, top Biden aide,

Washington — Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to President Biden, projected optimism Sunday that work on projects funded by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress will begin in the next few months, saying he’s “very confident” ground will be broken by the spring.

In an interview with “Face the Nation,” Richmond was asked whether he agreed with President Biden’s assessment that Americans will begin to see the effects of the infrastructure legislation beginning within the next two to three months.

“We’re very optimistic, almost certain,” Richmond, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, told “Face the Nation.” “Remember, the president oversaw the American Rescue Plan, which we saw after the last Great Recession under the Obama administration that he oversaw, and it was very effective. He knows what he’s doing. This is his plan. We have administration expertise to get it done. I’m very confident we can get it done.”

The House approved the bipartisan infrastructure bill late Friday, breaking a monthslong logjam as Democrats haggled over the details of Mr. Biden’s broader $1.75 trillion climate and social spending package. House progressives had been pushing for both bills to move through Congress on parallel tracks and threatened to tank the $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, but ultimately agreed to move it through the House after receiving a commitment from moderates to support the social spending measure once they receive a fiscal analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

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Because the Senate passed the infrastructure bill in August, the measure now heads to Mr. Biden’s desk for his signature.

The House’s approval of the physical infrastructure plan marks a key legislative milestone for the president, as it is a crucial pillar of his domestic policy agenda and comes as his administration works to address supply chain backlogs and rising consumer prices. Mr. Biden said in remarks from the White House on Saturday that the bill is a “once-in-a-generation investment” that will create jobs, modernize the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and combat climate change.

The package includes $550 billion in new spending, including $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for railways. It also sets aside $65 billion for broadband and $55 billion for clean water investments.

Richmond said the physical infrastructure bill will also ease supply chain bottlenecks and inflationary pressures, and create jobs.

“We know that we have the workers out there and we’re going to start fixing this nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” he said.

Richmond also rejected criticisms that Democrats are unwilling to acknowledge the economic issues facing the country, namely inflation and a recent drop in workforce participation, but said Mr. Biden’s domestic policy agenda aims to ensure the economic recovery continues.

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“The president acknowledged that some prices are going up, and we’re going to deal with that, which is why this bill was so critical and the Build Back Better bill,” he said. “The president and his economy is right on track. I think his three-pronged approach has always been correct: The rescue plan, the infrastructure plan and the human capital plan are all critical to continuing moving this economy in the right direction.”

Mr. Biden’s $1.75 trillion social policy and climate package is expected to get a vote in the House later this month, though it’s set to be significantly overhauled in the Senate. The president unveiled a revamped framework last month, trimming substantially from his initial $3.5 trillion price tag to appease concerns from two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Among the proposals axed in the revised framework were 12 weeks of paid family leave and free community college, though the House reinstated the paid family and medical leave provision in its own bill last week.

Richmond said the White House has “always gone to the mat” for paid family leave, but acknowledged it currently does not have support from all 50 Democrats in the Senate, which is needed for the package to clear the upper chamber.

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“We view paid and paid medical leave as a value proposition because we know what families go through in this country when children and family members get sick,” he said. “The president knows it personally, I know it personally, the administration knows it personally.”

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