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Biden’s infrastructure win gives him some momentum. Here’s why he needs that

npr– Friday night was a long one for President Biden, working the phones at the end of a week where his party lost a bellwether race in Virginia, following months of Democratic infighting over his agenda. Down in the polls, he had just returned from an overseas trip where he said he faced questions about whether he had support to back the pledges he made on the world stage.

But by Saturday morning, Biden could not contain his ebullience, celebrating a major legislative victory: a long-stalled $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill had passed with bipartisan support.

“Finally, infrastructure week,” Biden said, chuckling over what had become a running joke about his predecessor, who failed to ever make a deal on the investment needed for the nation’s roads and ports despite often promising to focus on the problem. “I’m so happy to say that: infrastructure week,” he said.

The bill’s passage — combined with some positive news on the economy and the pandemic — could give Biden some momentum for tackling the next big piece of his agenda, a sprawling package of social programs, an overhaul of the tax system and billions of dollars of climate incentives. The size and scope of the plan has exposed deep division within his own party. But it’s another win he’s eager to secure ahead of looming 2022 congressional elections.

“The week started rough for Biden, but the [infrastructure] win and great jobs numbers shows the path by which Biden can turn this around,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who worked in the Obama White House.

But there are a host of forbidding odds working against Democrats as they head into the 2022 midterm elections, says Doug Heye, a Republican political consultant. “Inflation, national security, the border and so much more,” Heye said. “It’s hard to find an issue where Democrats have an advantage now.”

Biden says he needs to do more to explain his bills

Biden’s Saturday morning speech likely won’t be the last he’ll give celebrating this victory.

He said he wants to hold a signing ceremony for the infrastructure bill along with the Republicans who were key to its passage in both the House and Senate — a nod to an idea he campaigned on, that Washington can work for the American people despite political polarization.

His advisers have also acknowledged that the White House needs to do a better job explaining their giant legislative packages to Americans.

His first bill, a $1.9 trillion COVID aid package, contained a series of measures that Democrats have had a hard time getting credit for, including monthly child tax credit payments. This week, Biden said he’ll be talking about ports — a sector that will get a lot of long-overdue investment of $17 billion from the infrastructure package.

In Biden’s view, his job now is to try to “put people at ease and let them know there’s a way through this,” whether it’s the pandemic or the supply chain snarls that he says have shaken Americans’ confidence. “Whether you have a Ph.D. or you’re working, you know, in a restaurant, it’s confusing. And so, people are understandably worried,” he said.

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