(CN) — Visiting the Steel City just hours after a bridge collapse, President Joe Biden held up the episode as an example of dilapidated national infrastructure whose repair his administration has already made a priority.
Ten people were injured when the Forbes Avenue bridge in Pittsburgh's Breezy Point neighborhood collapsed early Friday morning, ahead of Biden's scheduled appearance in the city.
The president said the bridge had been rated in poor condition for the past 10 years. Its ruin, he went on, underscores the need for Pittsburgh and cities throughout the country to receive federal funds to repair aging infrastructure. "What you all know, if you don't you should know, there are another 3,300 bridges here in Pennsylvania, some of which are just as old and just as decrepit condition is that one was, including here in Pittsburgh, the city of bridges," Biden said.
Biden's $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill lays out $26.5 billion for bridges alone, a price tag the president said is the largest investment in bridges since President Dwight Eisenhower's construction of the interstate highway system.
"We're going to rebuild that bridge, along with thousands of other bridges in Pennsylvania and across the country, because it's in our interest for our own safety's sake and it generates commerce in a way that we can't do now," Biden said
The president emphasized that, in addition to improving community resources, the infrastructure legislation will also create local union jobs. The White House has estimated the plan will add approximately 2 million jobs every year for the next 10 years.
"We always do better when ordinary hardworking people have a shot," Biden said. "The middle class built this country and unions built the middle class."
In what was the first indication of the president's messaging headed into the midterm elections and his promise to spend more time outside of Washington during his second year in office, Biden placed a heavy emphasis on the American economy.
The U.S. economy grew 5.7% this year, the quickest growth since the Reagan administration, and Biden finished his first year in office with a quarter of economic growth that outpaced many economists' estimates.
"Every action I've taken to rebuild the economy has been guided by one principle: Make it in America, like we used to. No one knows that better than all the folks in Pittsburgh. And that's why it matters so much," Biden said.
"To build a truly strong economy we need a future that's made in America," the president added.
Biden urged Congress to reach a consensus on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, a measure that has been described as a "competitiveness bill" that would invest $90 billion in research and manufacturing and expand semiconductor production in the U.S.
"Other countries are catching up fast, but we can and we must change that trajectory. We have an opportunity ahead of us right now," Biden said, referencing manufacturing and innovation growth in China.
The USICA legislation passed the Senate with support from both parties but is stalling in the House where lawmakers are expected to introduce their own version of the bill soon.
"My expectation is this continue to be a bipartisan effort God willing, just like the infrastructure," Biden said.
While taking care not to directly address the recent goings-on in D.C., making no mention of the filibuster or voting rights, the president continued to reference the Build Back Better Act, legislation that, among other things, aimed to reduce the cost of child care and place limits on insulin and prescription drug prices. The bill is stalled in the Senate and unlikely to pass in its entirety.
"Imagine being a parent making the minimum wage or twice the minimum wage, having a child with Type 1 diabetes, knowing that, if you have no insurance, knowing that if you cannot get that money for this, that child might die," Biden said.
The president became increasingly passionate as he described the stakes of the policy battle.
"In addition to your child, it strips you of your dignity, dammit. Can you imagine looking at your child, knowing what they need and not be able to do it?" the president asked, looking up as though clearly focused on the image he conjured up in this hypothetical.
Rounding out his speech on a hopeful note, the president described this moment in American politics as one defined by choices that depend on bipartisanship.
"Here's the bottom line: The United States is in a position to out compete the rest of the world once again. We're at a real inflection point. Technology, society is changing and we've always been ahead of the curve. We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us. We still face tremendous challenges. If we can keep coming together and invest in the backbone of this country, there's no limit to what we can achieve."Follow @@rosemwagner
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