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Biden, McConnell Kentucky event is a roadmap for White House under new Congress


U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as he boards Air Force One at Rohlsen Airport to depart after a New Year holiday visit to Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. January 2, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will make a rare joint appearance on Wednesday at a bridge in Kentucky in a display of bipartisanship that offers a guide to how the White House hopes to govern in months to come.

As hardline Republicans create turmoil in the House of Representatives by blocking the rest of the party’s chosen leader, Kevin McCarthy, Biden and McConnell’s visit is likely to paint a sharp contrast – and that’s just what Biden aides and allies are hoping for.

Biden and McConnell, both 80, will visit the Kentucky side of the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Covington and Cincinnati, Ohio, to tout how funds from the $1 trillion infrastructure law that passed Congress with bipartisan support will be used to repair the congested crossing.

Both veteran politicians have their political reasons for appearing together. McConnell wants to get credit from voters in his home state of Kentucky for the spending project, while Biden wants to highlight the on-the-ground impacts of lawmakers working together.

“We worked like hell to get the most significant infrastructure bill in the history of the United States,” Biden said on Wednesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris and other top administration officials are fanning out across the country for similar events in coming days.

Biden has enjoyed Democratic control of Congress during his first two years in office. But after midterm elections in November, Republicans now control the House and plan to try to stall his agenda and launch investigations into his family and cabinet members.

That’s the opposite of what the White House thinks voters want.

Democrats’ unexpected success in the last midterms shows “the American people said very loudly and clearly they wanted us to come together and work for a common ground,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday.

Asked about House Republican’s inability to choose a leader as he headed to Kentucky Wednesday, Biden said “How do you think this looks to the rest of the world?”, particularly after the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. “I hope they get their act together,” he added.

Biden’s strategy for the 2022 midterms was to paint the opposition party as beholden to its more extremist elements still wed to the legacy of former Republican President Donald Trump. They now see it as a dry run for Biden’s own 2024 re-election campaign, as well, while the White House focuses on trying to get more of his agenda through Congress by winning Republican support.

Biden, who was a long-time Democratic senator from Delaware, has had sharp differences with McConnell on economic policy and the government’s role in America. McConnell’s decision to refuse to consider then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice, when Biden was vice president and McConnell was Senate majority leader, was a source of tension.

In a stark sign of the Republican divisions that the White House hopes will work to their advantage, Trump endorsed McCarthy on Wednesday morning, while lobbing a racial slur at McConnell’s wife.

“If Republicans are going to fight, we ought to be fighting Mitch McConnell and his domineering, China loving BOSS, I mean wife,” Trump wrote on Truth Social of Elaine Chao, his former Transportation Secretary, adding a derogatory nickname.

When Trump used the slur in the past, Chao has called it a “racist taunt” and asked the media not to repeat it.

Biden and McConnell will be joined by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, former Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

The 2021 infrastructure law includes $27 billion over five years to fix and replace thousands of aging bridges.

Four moveable bridges crossing the Calumet River in Chicago; the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London, Connecticut; and the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, will also receive funding.

McConnell was among a handful of Republicans who voted for the infrastructure law while many House Republicans including McCarthy opposed it.