Biden touts economy, infrastructure; may offer 2024 preview

Published 5:29 pm Friday, February 3, 2023

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PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden hasn’t announced a reelection campaign, but some of the themes likely to be the centerpiece of that expected run should be on display Friday night when he addresses a national Democratic Party meeting.

The president plans to focus on his administration’s accomplishments creating jobs and stimulating domestic manufacturing as he and Vice President Kamala Harris speak at a Democratic National Committee gathering in Philadelphia.

“I would argue the Biden economic plan is working,” Biden said before flying to Philadelphia, reacting to a new jobs report showing that employers created a net 517,000 jobs last month, exceeding economists’ expectations. He called the tally “strikingly good news.”

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Prior to their evening speeches, Biden and Harris visited a water treatment plant and celebrated $15 billion in funding to remove lead pipes from service lines around the country, including in Philadelphia. That comes from a bipartisan infrastructure package Congress passed in 2021, which is also bankrolling railway projects the president spent this week trumpeting.

“The issue has to do with basic dignity,” Biden said. “No amount of lead in water is safe. None.”

With the State of the Union address coming next week, Biden has renewed calls for political unity, something he’s acknowledged being unable to achieve despite his promises to do so as a candidate in 2020. But those appeals haven’t tempered Biden’s broadsides against his predecessor, Donald Trump, and the Republican Party’s continued fealty to the former president’s “Make America Great Again” movement.

“Look, this is not your father’s Republican Party,” the president said this week at a separate DNC fundraiser in New York. “This is a different breed of cat.”

The president is facing increasing pressure in Washington, where a special counsel is investigating how classified documents turned up in his home and a former office, and a Republican-controlled House is investigating everything from the administration’s immigration procedures at the U.S.-Mexico border to the overseas ties of the president’s son Hunter.

That’s made some top Democrats anxious to see Biden stay on the political offensive.

“The president is trying to solve the problems of the nation on infrastructure, on microchips, on gun safety, on health care, and I think he’s going to talk about doing that,” said Randi Weingarten, a DNC member and president of the American Federation of Teachers. “And then also compare (that) to the GOP, which seems to be on a revenge agenda.”

Biden’s speech comes the day before the DNC is set to approve an overhauled presidential primary calendar starting next year that would replace Iowa with South Carolina in the leadoff spot. New Hampshire and Nevada would go second, followed by Georgia and Michigan — a change the president has championed to ensure that voters of color have more influence deciding the party’s White House nominee.

The new calendar would be largely moot if Biden runs again, since party elders won’t want to oversee a drawn-out primary against him. The president is addressing the Democrats as the party has been solidly unified in its opposition to the new Republican-controlled House and with no major Democratic challenger thought to be preparing to run against him.

Biden’s expected announcement of a reelection campaign is still likely weeks away. But Biden’s advisers have been preparing for one for months, making staffing arrangements and readying lines of political attacks against Republicans seen as early presidential front-runners, including Trump, who launched his campaign in November, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Alan Clendenin, a DNC member from Florida, said Biden has strengthened the economy, reestablished U.S. global standing and promoted inclusive values — the opposite of what Trump and DeSantis stand for.

“They predicted gloom and doom. He’s proved them all wrong,” said Clendenin, who kicked off a DNC Southern caucus meeting by noting that Florida has begun lagging behind other states in key policy areas and joking of its governor, “That’s what happened when you’re led by the devil.”

Biden repeatedly denounced “extreme MAGA Republicans” as a threat to the nation’s democracy in the runup to last fall’s midterm elections, when his party pulled off a stronger-than-expected showing. The president has since worked to portray today’s GOP as beholden as ever to Trump, saying at the New York fundraiser, “You’d think that what would happen is that there would be a little bit, as we Catholics say, (of) an epiphany.”

“Well, instead, it’s been the exact opposite,” Biden said. “They’ve just doubled down.”

The president will have a harder time campaigning on future legislative accomplishments now that the GOP controls the House. A coming fight over extending the nation’s legal debt ceiling may only harden partisan clashes.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he and the White House would continue talking about ways to avoid a debt limit crisis. But, referring to federal spending, McCarthy said, “The current path we’re on we cannot sustain.”

Biden has also suggested that simply bashing Republicans won’t be enough, noting that Democrats have seen their support among Americans without a college degree decline “because a lot of people think we left them behind.”

Weingarten, whose union represents 1.7 million members, said “there’s a lot of grievance in the country about the loss of good union jobs” but Biden had solidified pension funds, promoted union membership and helped reduce costs for low income families.

“Regardless of what has happened in the past,” she said “I would say that Joe Biden is a working person’s president.”