President Joe Biden on Friday took aim at his predecessor Donald Trump for failing to enact new infrastructure reforms during his presidency, adopting a sharp tone as he looks to frame the upcoming election amid voter pessimism around the economy.
Speaking in Las Vegas to a crowd of union workers, Biden offered a reelection argument centered on his own record and also Trump’s inability to accomplish what he promised. Biden was in the city to announce a multi-billion dollar boost to railway construction and improvements across the country – including what could become the nation’s first true high-speed rail line.
Trump “always talked about infrastructure week. Four years of infrastructure week. But it failed. He failed,” Biden said.
“Trump just talks the talk. We walk the walk,” he said, chastising his predecessor for claiming America is a “failing nation.”
“Frankly he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” Biden said.
The renewed attacks on Trump’s record come as Biden works to reverse an underwater approval rating and negative impressions of the economy, despite strong growth and hiring.
It also comes as concerns from voters about the president’s age and the legal issues surrounding his son, Hunter Biden, continue to dominate headlines with a less than a year to go until the 2024 election.
During his speech, President Biden turned the focus toward strong new jobs numbers and easing inflation but conceded “prices are still too high for too many things.”
He called on corporations to pass along savings from supply chain improvements to consumers, calling elevated prices “gouging.”
“The American people are tired to be played for suckers,” he said.
Biden said he hoped to use billions of dollars in new passenger rail investments as evidence of his economic stewardship, including a high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles that would cut driving time in half.
“We’ve been talking about this project for decades. Now we’re gonna get that done,” he said. “If a casino worker wants to take their kids to California for the weekend, they can have breakfast here in Las Vegas and lunch in LA.”
Planners hope to complete that project in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called that an “aggressive timeline,” but said officials would be monitoring progress to keep it on track.
Biden predicted Republicans who opposed the infrastructure law would be first in line to take credit for projects in their districts. He said he would see them at the groundbreakings.
The rail grants, amounting to $8.2 billion, will be allocated toward 10 projects and are funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by Biden in November 2021. Biden has touted the law, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as a key accomplishment from his term – and one his campaign hopes voters will keep top of mind with less than a year to go until the 2024 election.
Following passage of the law, Biden – known for being an avid train rider during his time in the Senate – described it as the “most important investment in public transit in American history.”
Also among the projects is a controversial high speed rail project connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco. The California High Speed Rail project – which is years behind schedule – is a frequent target of political criticism over major rail investments.
The top House lawmaker on the subcommittee overseeing rail lines, Republican Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, recently said at a hearing the project is “disastrous” and an example of “the failures of poor planning and government incompetence.” The Transportation Department in the past has even tried to claw back federal funding pumped into the rail line.
But on a call with reporters about the announcement, Buttigieg defended the project, saying it is “facing a lot of the challenges that come with being the first at anything.” He said the project’s virtues include economic and climate benefits, estimating it as the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the roads.
In all, Buttigieg said, the funding gives rail projects “the greatest level of acceleration we’ve seen in modern times.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.
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