By: April Ryan, The Grio
President Joe Biden has a major victory under his belt after he signed into law the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Reverend Al Sharpton attended the White House signing ceremony on a cold Monday afternoon located on the South Lawn, where the Grio was also in attendance. After the event, Sharpton told the Grio that this moment is “important and it is a deposit on the first part” of President Biden’s physical and human infrastructure legislative agenda.
But the civil rights activist also emphasized that “we are not paid in full until” Biden and Democrats are able to pass critical voting rights legislation. As for the infrastructure bill that was just passed into law, Sharpton noted that there is a need to “make sure some of these contracts go to Black communities.” He added, “broadband is good but we need to keep going further.”
Taking the stage at the signing ceremony before President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris said there is indeed more to come from the Biden-Harris administration. Clad in her staple pant suit, Vice President Harris said “this bill is one of two,” the second half of the bill being the social infrastructure component to include extended tax credits for children, significant climate investment, among other things, is expected to be voted on in Congress at the end of the week or sometime next week.
Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is tasked as the Implementation Coordinator for this new law. President Biden said Landrieu will make sure the federal dollars are dispersed as expected in the structure laid out for each line item in the bill from roads, to lead pipe removal to money for Amtrak to fix dilapidated infrastructure.
President Biden will begin his victory lap on Tuesday as he travels with Landrieu to New Hampshire and the site of a “broken down bridge,” according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. The presidential spokesperson said it is all “in efforts to help people understand how the infrastructure bill will impact their lives.”
Ultimately, Psaki said, President Biden and Vice President Harris will be crisscrossing America to educate the nation on the infrastructure law and how Americans stand to benefit from its investments.
U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, who was in the audience at Monday’s ceremony, told the Grio “this is physical infrastructure, which is something North Carolina needs desperately.” He said at the top of the list of necessary investments is rural broadband followed by roads and bridges. The congressman also vowed that next up on the agenda for him and his Democratic colleagues is passing the second arm of Biden’s infrastructure agenda in the Build Back Better Act.
The signing event drew a swarm of recognizable faces and names like U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and U.S. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah along with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Congressional Black Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, U.S. Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida along with a contingent of Republican and Democratic members of Congress, Republican and Democratic governors, civil rights leaders, union leaders, clergy and others who traveled for this moment.
However, there were some dark clouds hovering over Monday’s signing with President Biden’s recent approval rating at its lowest levels. In response to Biden’s approval rating, Press Secretary Psaki said, “this is an opportunity” amid COVID fatigue for the administration to get to work and to help Americans on various domestic issues.
“Can they do better? Of course. That is why we are out here protesting everyday,” said Melanie Campbell of the Black Women’s Roundtable in response to public criticisms over the job performance of both Biden and Harris. Campbell will be marching Tuesday from the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women to the U.S. Capitol building to push for passage of voting rights legislation.
“[It] has to get done and it needs to get done,” said Campbell, who has the ear of both President Biden and Vice President Harris. “The administration needs to get the filibuster reform done so they can pass legislation that is important to all of us.”
Campbell was also in attendance at the bill signing. She and Rev. Sharpton are of one mind on voting rights and this administration. Sharpton contends, ”I think we had to be here to insist that we also move forward on the voting rights bill. In the great spirit of bipartisanship I hope they also include the John Lewis [Voting Rights] Advancement bill.”