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Biden's Unveiled $2 Trillion Infrastructure Package In Today's Speech

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

President Biden came into office focused solely on getting the nation through the pandemic. But today, he is shifting his focus to his plans for the future with an infrastructure pitch.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It's a once-in-a-generation investment in America, unlike anything we've seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago. In fact, it's the largest American jobs investment since World War II.

CHANG: Speaking in Pittsburgh, Biden introduced a $2 trillion proposal that would overhaul roads, bridges and rail, as well as water systems, the electric grid and broadband Internet. NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow joins us now with more.

Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

CHANG: Good afternoon. OK, this is an enormous spending package. I mean, it's like - what? - one of several multitrillion-dollar spending plans that we're going to be seeing Biden introduced this year. What is his argument for such a sprawling proposal?

DETROW: You know, it's that the country is long overdue for an infrastructure proposal like this. Presidents and lawmakers from both parties have been talking about rebuilding infrastructure for decades, and it hasn't happened on the broad scale that they all say is needed. Biden is increasingly focused on competing with China. That's just one country that has lapped the U.S. on infrastructure, you know, physical things like transit and roads, also broadband, research and development spending.

So Biden is also tying this to two things he spends a lot of time talking about - expanding jobs, particularly union jobs and the construction and manufacturing he wants this to spur, and also speeding up the country's shift to clean energy, to green energy, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

CHANG: OK, there's a lot in this proposal. Can you just give us some of the highlights?

DETROW: Yeah, there are so many different areas that if I just started listing them, it just becomes a blur ticking through them, especially with the price tags.

CHANG: Yeah.

DETROW: Very broadly speaking, having warned you, the president wants to spend more than $100 billion rebuilding roads and bridges, about the same amount building out high-speed broadband so everyone in the country has high-speed Internet access. He wants to replace all lead water pipes in the country.

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BIDEN: American Jobs Plan will put plumbers and pipefitters to work, replacing 100% of the nation's lead pipes and service lines.

DETROW: And that is a good example of a clear throughline here in all these proposals of addressing racial injustices, spending money on things that disproportionately affect or are used by people of color. A couple other things to tick through - you know, as I mentioned, embedded within this bill is one of the biggest efforts ever to address climate change. Biden wants to speed up the shift to clean energy. He also wants to lay the groundwork for a fast transition to electric vehicles. And then very quickly, he wants to pay for this by increasing corporate taxes to not quite the amount they were before those 2017 tax cuts, but raise them from where they are now.

CHANG: OK. Let's go back real quick to electric vehicles because that's something Biden mentioned a lot when he was running for president. I mean, that would be such a massive change. How exactly would that work?

DETROW: Yeah. Just to put this in context, he wants to spend more on this proposal than on the road and bridge part of this proposal. This is something that would massively change daily life, and it's also a good example of the approach that the White House is taking in a lot of different areas in this plan. Instead of just issuing government mandates, they're trying to speed up something that's already happening in the private sector and do that by three different ways.

First of all, he wants to give tax credits and rebates to consumers to make them more willing to buy electric vehicles, which, right now, are more expensive. Second, he wants to shift government-owned vehicles - buses, things like that - to electric in order to grow demand and get companies to make more of the electric vehicles. And then third - this is the other important part - he wants to spend billions to get state and local governments to build the charging stations that you need so that you know you can drive your electric car and not run out of energy halfway through your trip.

CHANG: Right. Well, the White House says it wants this to be bipartisan. And, Scott, I mean, infrastructure is one of those issues that both parties can theoretically agree on, at least. What's been the reaction so far from Republicans?

DETROW: Theoretical is doing a lot of work there.

CHANG: (Laughter).

DETROW: The initial Republican reaction is not too warm. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called this plan a Trojan horse, saying the administration is talking about infrastructure, but defining it in a much broader way than Republicans are. They're much more interested in the roads and bridges parts. Remember, the White House has another enormous proposal coming soon. Biden said today it's going to be called the American Families Plan. There's a lot of spending coming down the pike, and you can expect Republicans to say this is just too expensive. Of course, they spent four years largely voting in line with big spending increases President Trump wanted to see.

CHANG: That is NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow.

Thank you, Scott.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.