Biden promotes infrastructure law, pushes social spending during Minnesota visit

President Joe Biden used his first trip to Minnesota as president to promote the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure law and to press Congress for an even bigger climate change and social spending package.

The brisk visit, which saw the president spend just three hours on the ground, was to Minnesota's Second congressional district, likely of the nation's most competitive districts headed into the 2022 midterm elections. Biden noted how U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, who has held the seat since 2019, was a supporter of the newly signed legislation.

Biden toured the heavy trucking program at Dakota County Technical College before speaking to a small, masked audience of about 90 people that included numerous elected officials and representatives of the college.

"This law is going to do something historic," Biden said of the infrastructure law, which will send more than $6 billion to Minnesota in the form of road, bridge, broadband and water infrastructure spending. "It's going to rebuild the backbone of this nation."

Biden is pushing Congress to finish work on a $1.85 trillion package of climate and social initiatives in December, which he said would cap the cost of childcare for most families at 7 percent of income, create universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-old children, and funnel $10 billion into job training programs like the ones at DCTC.

"Frankly, I’m surprised not a single Republican in Congress is joining us in supporting it," the president said.

Biden dismissed concerns that passing trillions of dollars of new spending would fuel runaway inflation. The U.S. inflation rate is 6.2 percent year-over-year, eating almost all of the increases to Minnesota workers' average hourly earnings since this time a year ago.

High inflation was at the center of Minnesota Republicans' criticism of Biden ahead of his visit.

"The inflation is out of control," U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents the Eighth congressional district in northeast Minnesota, told reporters on a conference call. "We thought the 1970s was bad. We can’t go back to 1970. We have to move forward."

Biden briefly previewed an announcement scheduled for Thursday about his administration's plans to fight COVID-19 in the winter. He said the administration's strategy did not include "shutdowns and lockdowns" but booster shots, testing and mask-wearing.

Biden last visited Minnesota while a presidential candidate in September 2020. Then, he spoke at a union training facility in Hermantown.