Biden puts focus on infrastructure amid new virus concerns

President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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The Associated PressPresident Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 variant named omicron, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden visits a Minnesota community college Tuesday to highlight how his $1 trillion infrastructure law will create jobs and help train workers.

The trip occurs at a crucial pivot point for Biden, who is facing the threat of the new omicron strain of the coronavirus and high levels of inflation as vital parts of his agenda are still awaiting congressional approval. Biden needs to get his nearly $2 trillion social and economic agenda through the Senate, as well as temporarily fund the government and preserve its ability to borrow as the debt limit could be breached in December.

Biden holds out the infrastructure package, containing money for roads, bridges, broadband, water systems and a shift to electrical vehicles, as evidence that he can work across the political aisle. The measure passed with solid Republican support.

He plans to tour Dakota County Technical College in Rosemont, Minnesota. Afterward, he will give remarks on how the additional spending on infrastructure will “deliver for the American people, create good-paying union jobs, lower prices by improving the infrastructure for our supply chains,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in previewing the trip.

One key obstacle for the infrastructure package will be having enough skilled construction workers. Labor Department figures show that roughly 7.5 million people hold construction jobs, nearly as many as there were during the housing bubble about 15 years ago. Builders say it’s been difficult for them to find workers and the spending on infrastructure could only increase demand further.

Biden won Minnesota in last year’s presidential election with 52.6% of the vote. He’s visiting the state’s second congressional district, a potentially vulnerable seat in the midterms that narrowly went to Democratic Rep. Angie Craig in 2020.

The president has recently been in close contact with the heads of several major retailers, including Target, which is headquartered in the state, as he attempts to resolve supply chain challenges that have clogged ports and caused consumers to wait longer for electronics, furniture and other goods.

The supply chain challenges have contributed to prices in October rising 6.2% from 12 months ago, the highest pace in 31 years. The White House National Economic Council issued a report Monday suggesting that there has been progress on addressing the problems, with a decrease in long-dwelling containers waiting at ports and an increase in retail inventories.

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