Biden Takes Spending Pitch to Cleveland Amid GOP Negotiations

President Joe Biden will try to bolster his case for his massive spending proposals on Thursday, arguing his economic plan is working and rebutting Republican claims that rising prices and worker shortages threaten the nation’s recovery.

Biden, in a speech in Cleveland, will point to an average of 500,000 jobs being created each month and a steep drop in unemployment claims, said a White House official who previewed the remarks on condition of anonymity. His stance is buoyed by new figures released Thursday showing that applications for state unemployment insurance fell for a fourth consecutive week.

Yet the improving jobs numbers, along with rising prices for products ranging from lumber to used cars, have fueled the GOP’s argument that the government doesn’t need to spend an additional $4 trillion on Biden’s proposals to overhaul infrastructure and support families.

While many Republicans are interested in funding road- and bridge-building, they’re not interested in raising taxes to pay for Biden’s other plans, such as expanding community college access or universal pre-K. Republicans argue such hikes could jeopardize any nascent economic recovery.

A group of Republican senators led by West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito publicly revealed a $928 billion counteroffer on infrastructure on Thursday, but the plan includes only about $257 billion in federal spending beyond what Congress was already expected to enact and is more than $1 trillion short of Biden’s latest proposal.

Biden is expected to reiterate his argument that the additional spending is necessary for the U.S. to compete globally, and essential to address issues like climate change and racial injustice. Aides also argue the spending wouldn’t overheat the economy because it would be spread out over a decade.

In the speech, Biden is likely to gloss over April’s disappointing jobs report and he won’t dwell on concerns about rising inflation. Instead, he’s expected to focus on the longer term outlook, such as White House predictions of a positive picture for both employment and inflation by 2022. Still, factors such as the impact of the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill add uncertainty.

Biden will again call for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a move that would require Congress to act, as well as the need for higher wages more broadly, the official said. He will also reiterate his plan to impose higher rates on the wealthy and corporations — a key point of his plan to finance what the White House bills as transformative and historic investments for the country.

“The American people understand that the economy we had before the pandemic left far too many people behind, and that more and more families were finding that their grip on a middle class life – and the security it affords – was precarious,” Mike Donilon, a senior adviser to Biden, wrote in a memo. “They know we can’t afford to simply turn the clock back to where we were.”

Donilon cited a range of non-partisan polling that showed some of Biden’s infrastructure and tax plans are popular with the majority of Americans.

Biden will deliver his speech at Cuyahoga Community College, where he was scheduled to hold his last campaign rally in March 2020 before the pandemic hit.

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