C-SPAN screenshot

President Biden in La Crosse today praised a bipartisan infrastructure deal as a “blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”

In his second visit to the state since becoming president, Biden touched on the nation’s high road fatality rates and how car exhaust is one of the leading causes of air pollution in America.

He said the package would target these problems by promoting electric vehicles, public transportation and better rail networks. Biden, an avid Amtrak rider, said studies have shown that people would prefer to take a train on short trips over a car whenever possible.

“I bet any one of you could tell me what the most dangerous intersections in your home towns are,” Biden said at La Crosse’s Municipal Transit Utility. “Imagine if you could get from Chicago to La Crosse in two hours instead of four-and-a-half. This is the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak.”

Amtrak’s expansion plans, if funded through federal infrastructure measures, would add new stops in Wisconsin cities like Madison, Eau Claire and Green Bay.

Ahead of his speech, Biden toured the transit facility, meeting with local leaders who touted the city’s implementation of a new electric bus fleet.

Dem officials Gov. Tony Evers, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind also spoke briefly ahead of Biden. Evers said the president intends to make Wisconsin “a regular stop” while traveling the country in office.

According to pool reports, La Crosse County GOP members outside the facility held up signs supporting former President Trump. One sign read “NO TO BIG GOVERNMENT” and another called for the ousting of Kind, D-La Crosse.

A smaller group of Biden supporters also stood outside of the facility on the opposite side of the street, according to pool reports.

According to White House figures, the infrastructure plan would spend $973 billion over five years and $1.2 billion over eight years.

Biden said his plan would not raise taxes on any individual making less than $400,000 a year. That’s why the bill, which addresses roadwork and other public infrastructure, contains no gas tax, according to Biden.

Instead, he said the plan would give additional funds to the IRS to enforce tax laws on the wealthy and corporations that are already on the books.

“I’m not trying to punish anybody. I’m just saying let’s be fair,” Biden said. “I think it’s time to give ordinary people a tax break. The wealthy are doing fine.”

The White House last week said the trip would be to southwest Wisconsin and would focus on agriculture and rural communities with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, but didn’t provide other details. But two days later, Biden and senators announced the framework of a bipartisan infrastructure package. And the trip instead turned into an effort to sell that proposal to the American people.

Over the weekend the White House walked back Biden’s comments that angered Republicans on the deal. He said he would not sign the bipartisan bill unless it came as a package deal with a larger, more partisan bill.

State GOP Chairman Andrew Hitt slammed the change in Biden’s focus, saying he had “the audacity to abandon Wisconsin farmers for a bus station. As Democrats continue to remind Americans how little they care about the Heartland, it’s no wonder that rural Wisconsinites are leaving their party in droves.”

Biden last traveled to the state on Feb. 16 for a CNN town hall in Milwaukee.

Watch Biden’s speech here.

Updated June 29 at 4:26 p.m. to include pool coverage.

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