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Political Notebook

Biden takes infrastructure plan to the South

President Biden spoke about infrastructure and jobs along the banks of the Calcasieu River in Westlake, La.
President Biden spoke about infrastructure and jobs along the banks of the Calcasieu River in Westlake, La.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden pitched his $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan Thursday in the Deep South, arguing that repairing aging bridges is long overdue and that the proposal will benefit Americans of all political stripes.

“When it comes to bridges and roads and the like, I’ve never seen a Republican or Democrat road,” he said with Lake Charles, La., as a backdrop. “I just see roads.”

Former president Donald Trump won Louisiana in 2016 and 2020, but Biden is trying to secure support for his legislative proposal from the state’s voters despite criticism from the Republican lawmakers representing them in Washington. Biden wants to fund his plan by raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans — a move GOP lawmakers adamantly oppose.

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Biden said lawmakers have promised infrastructure updates for years but haven’t followed through.

“I got so tired of hearing ‘infrastructure week.’ Nothing has happened,” he said.

The American Jobs Plan aims to create a million jobs that could help bring those bridges, along with highways and other infrastructure projects, up to date, the president said.

The president spoke near the Calcasieu River Bridge, which opened in 1952. Biden said the structure was designed to handle 37,000 crossings a day.

“But today, every day more than 80,000 cars and trucks cross over that bridge,” Biden said. “And it doesn’t have the modern safety features that bridges need to have now.” It has been deemed “structurally deficient” by the Louisiana Department of Transportation.

“After decades of politicians studying it and talking about it, Governor [John Bel] Edwards is finally moving forward with a project to actually replace the bridge, one with six lanes, new interchanges that safely reduce congestion,” he added. “And it shouldn’t be as hard, shouldn’t be this hard or take so long to fix a bridge.”

Later in the day, Biden visited the Carrollton Water Plant in New Orleans, which serves a city with a water system that includes some pipes more than 100 years old.

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Washington Post

Stefanik lauds Trump as she pushes for Cheney’s post

Representative Elise Stefanik, campaigning to oust Representative Liz Cheney as the Republican Party’s No. 3 leader in the House for calling out former president Donald Trump’s election lies, pitched herself as an unshakable ally of the former president on Thursday, calling him the “strongest supporter of any president when it comes to standing up for the Constitution.”

In her first public interview since announcing she would run for Cheney’s post amid a drive by Republican leaders to force out the Wyoming lawmaker, Stefanik, of New York, appeared on Steve Bannon’s “War Room,” a hard-right program run by Trump’s former strategist, and promised to unite the party under the former president’s banner.

“My vision is to run with support from the president and his coalition of voters,” Stefanik said, adding later that she was committed to “sending a clear message that we are one team, and that means working with the president and working with all of our excellent Republican members of Congress.”

Stefanik’s glowing comments about Trump captured the contrast between her and Cheney, who has relentlessly criticized the former president for falsely claiming the election was stolen and beseeched Republican lawmakers — most recently in a scathing opinion piece on Wednesday — to excise him from the party before it collapses into irrelevance.

“Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law,” Cheney wrote. “No other American president has ever done this.”

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In the interview on Thursday, Stefanik, who voted to overturn the election results on Jan. 6 and has echoed Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, repeated some of those allegations, citing “unprecedented unconstitutional overreach” from state officials.

“These are questions that are going to have to be answered before we head into the 2022 midterms,” Stefanik said of the questions she raised about the legitimacy of President Biden’s victory.

Though Cheney beat back an effort in February to replace her as conference chair following her vote to impeach Trump, most Republicans — even her allies — expect her to be stripped of the position as early as next week. Top Republican leaders who backed her earlier this year have moved to support Stefanik.

And many of the party’s rank-and-file members, including some who agree with Cheney’s caustic assessments of Trump, say privately that have grown weary of her determination to continue publicly repudiating his lies and rebuking members of her own party for their role in fueling the falsehoods that inspired the Jan. 6. riot at the Capitol.

New York Times

Pelosi declines to commit to timetable for stepping down

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, is declining to say whether she will abide by an agreement she struck with a group of Democratic rebels three years ago to step down by the end of the 2022 cycle.

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In an interview with “PBS NewsHour” that aired Wednesday night, host Judy Woodruff asked Pelosi whether she might consider extending her time as speaker if Democrats retain their House majority in 2022.

“Well, let’s take it one step at a time,” Pelosi said. “I myself had thought I was leaving in 2016, when Hillary Clinton would be the president of the United States. But I don’t have any intention of declaring myself a lame duck.”

In December 2018, Pelosi struck a deal with a group of insurgent House Democrats who wanted new blood in the top Democratic ranks and maneuvered for months to deny Pelosi the votes she would need to be elected speaker once again.

Washington Post

Psaki says public interest in border is limited

White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested in a podcast interview that aired Thursday that President Biden has not traveled to the US-Mexico border because there is relatively limited public interest in the situation there, despite repeated calls by Republicans for him to witness firsthand the effect of a surge in migrants.

Psaki’s comments came in a wide-ranging interview on “The Axe Files” podcast, hosted by David Axelrod, who was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Psaki also said her tenure as press secretary could end by this time next year.

“We’re often asked, ‘Why doesn’t he go to the border?’ Important issue. We’re focused on it,” Psaki said. “What percentage of the public is focused on the border? A much smaller percentage than who’s focused on the pandemic and the economy. So that may be maddening, but, you know, that’s what we try to do.”

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A Pew survey in April showed that American concern about illegal immigration had in fact jumped, with a similar percentage saying it was a “very big problem” as said the same of the coronavirus pandemic.

Americans are also more critical of Biden on immigration than on many other issues, with 37 percent approving of his handling of the migrants situation at the U.S.-Mexico border in an April Washington Post-ABC poll. In that poll, 52 percent approved of Biden’s job performance overall.

Washington Post