(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden will argue that his economic agenda will ease rail congestion in the Northeast Corridor during a trip to the state on Monday that will put him alongside New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ahead of next week’s election.
The president’s visit includes a stop in Newark for a ceremony marking the beginning of construction on the new Portal Bridge, the replacement for a 110-year old span over the Hackensack River owned and operated by Amtrak Corp. The existing swing bridge -- the busiest rail bridge in the Western Hemisphere, notorious for frequently getting stuck in the wrong position -- will be replaced by a two-track, 2.5-mile span.
The bridge is the first phase of the Gateway project, a massive bridge and tunnel expansion and renovation effort designed to double train capacity over the Hudson River.
The trip is part of a series the White House scheduled to build public support for the president’s economic agenda, which includes increased spending on infrastructure and social programs. Biden told reporters earlier Monday he’s hopeful to strike a deal with congressional Democrats on the “Build Back Better” climate and welfare plan before he departs for a series of international meetings in Europe on Thursday.
Biden is trying to reach an agreement with moderates in the Senate who have objected to the price tag for the social spending legislation, initially proposed at $3.5 trillion over a decade. He met over the weekend with Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as they sought a compromise agreement on a smaller version of the legislation.
Progressive Democrats in the House have said they will not vote for a separate, $550 billion infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote until an agreement on the larger social spending measure is reached.
That infrastructure legislation includes $30 billion in funding for the Northeast Corridor, including $6 billion in grants to Amtrak for routine maintenance and upgrades. The bill also includes an additional $8 billion for capital investment grants to expand transit capacity, and nearly $8 billion for New Jersey to replace highways and bridges.
New Jersey Representative Josh Gottheimer, a centrist Democrat who has criticized liberals for blocking the infrastructure bill, will join Biden for his remarks at the NJ Transit Meadowlands Maintenance Complex in Kearny.
“With the Gateway Tunnel, SALT, accessible child care, climate provisions and two million jobs a year on the line, it is great to join President Biden today to highlight the importance of getting both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and a smart reconciliation bill across the finish line,” he said in a statement.
SALT is a reference to a $10,000 limit for state and local tax deductions. Some Democrats, especially in New York and New Jersey, are pushing to eliminate the cap, or increase the deduction, as part of Biden’s spending plan.
“I am optimistic that we will see all these critical Jersey priorities move forward this week, helping to get shovels in the ground and people to work. For New Jersey and for the whole country, we simply can’t afford to wait any longer.”
Biden will also visit a New Jersey elementary school to highlight elements of his social spending plan that would benefit the parents of young children. The president’s proposed plan would include funding for universal pre-K, extend child tax cuts, and provide assistance for childcare costs -- though benefits are expected to narrow in the final version of the legislation.
The North Plainfield district Biden is visiting on Monday already offers free preschool to all four-year-olds. The White House says the district could expand that program to cover three-year-olds if the legislation passes.
The president will be joined on both stops by Murphy, who is currently leading Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli by six percentage points according to an Emerson College/PIX 11 poll released Thursday. The election is Nov. 2.
Biden is expected to campaign with Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday. McAuliffe also holds a narrow lead over his Republican challenger, Glenn Youngkin, according to an analysis of polls by FiveThirtyEight.
(Updates with Gottheimer statement beginning in eighth paragraph.)
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