By Niels Lesniewski and Ariel Cohen, Roll Call — Nov 29, 2021
President will promote agenda in visit to technical college recommended by Democrat Angie Craig
President Joe Biden resumes his campaign to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law and sell his broader Build Back Better agenda with a stop Tuesday in a competitive House district in Minnesota.
Biden is scheduled to visit Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, a part of the Twin Cities metropolitan area that is in the heart of the 2nd District represented by second-term Democrat Angie Craig.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the school is an example “that illustrates how similar institutions across the country will train the next generation of workers and rebuild America’s infrastructure.”
“The majority of jobs supported by the president’s bipartisan infrastructure bill will not need a four-year college degree, and the programs provided by community and technical colleges, like Dakota County Technical College, will provide the training and skill development needed to help workers access the jobs created,” Psaki said at a White House briefing.
Craig’s office recommended the technical college as a potential venue for a presidential visit.
“They have a really strong construction trades program there at the college. And, of course, when we’re talking about highways, roads, bridges, investments, we also want to make sure we’re talking about the jobs that are going to be created and upgrading the infrastructure of America,” Craig told CQ Roll Call. “There’s also a really good other reason. … The bipartisan bill that passed makes substantial investment in the transportation sector, and so when we think about training the next generation of heavy-duty truck drivers and to help with us shoring up our supply chains across the country, this is a place that can symbolize those efforts to do just that.”
The college was also the site of an August visit by Craig and Michigan GOP Rep. Peter Meijer as part of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Congressional Exchange program.
Earlier this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named Craig to its Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents. First elected in 2018, Craig faces a likely rematch next year with Republican Tyler Kistner, whom she defeated by 2 points last fall.
At the end of October, Craig led 14 Frontline Democrats in pushing House leadership to include measures designed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs as part of the social infrastructure piece of the Biden agenda, which passed the House as a reconciliation bill and is awaiting consideration in the Senate.
Craig said she plans to discuss the importance of those provisions when the president is in her district Tuesday.
“The negotiation was tenuous at best around prescription drug pricing negotiations for Medicare and capping seniors’ costs for prescription drugs,” she said. “And so I’m just going to make sure that the president understands how important that is, to me and to my colleagues in the House. And hopefully, the White House will stand firm in the final negotiations in the Senate, on lowering the cost of health care for Americans.”
Craig suggested that reducing health care costs can be among the best ways to address inflation concerns.
“As we work through these supply chain issues, we need to make sure that we are helping Americans lower costs in other portions of their budget, and Build Back Better is really important to achieving that,” she said.
The exact contours of Craig’s district next year will probably not be clear until next year. A draft congressional map unveiled by the Minnesota House, which is under control of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, would shift conservative southern parts of the district to the GOP-leaning 1st District. But Republicans control the state Senate, so the exact boundaries of Craig’s district will likely only be settled after court action.
Kistner criticized the bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden plans to highlight on his swing through Minnesota.
“The Democrats know Angie Craig is in serious jeopardy of losing her seat in 2022 and are using their deeply flawed infrastructure legislation as an excuse to bring Joe Biden in to save Craig’s floundering political career,” the Marine veteran said in a statement.
In response, Craig said that she would have supported a similar infrastructure bill had it been brought up during the Trump administration.
Among other Minnesota lawmakers weighing in on the president’s plans was Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, who won a tough race last year against former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis (Craig’s predecessor in the House).
“The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a big deal,” Smith said in a statement. “For years Minnesotans have been coping with roads, bridges, transit systems, and ports in desperate need of repair and improvement. This bill will make the state more competitive, put people in good paying union jobs, boost local economies, and make progress in clearing the backlog of infrastructure projects. I’m proud to have worked alongside President Biden and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to secure this historic, bipartisan investment in our future that will improve the lives of rural, urban, suburban, and Tribal communities across Minnesota.”
Biden’s trip to Minnesota will mark his first official travel following the Thanksgiving holiday, which he spent on Nantucket, Mass., with family. It’s also his first event to pitch the infrastructure law since the emergence of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
There’s no current expectation that Biden’s travel will be curtailed as a result of the new variant.
“Obviously, we continue to assess, but we have every intention of moving forward with our plan to sell the president’s Build Back Better agenda, and, obviously, he’s a pivotal player in that,” Psaki said Monday.
Biden and White House public health officials believe the currently available vaccines should provide some level of protection against the omicron variant, though it will take up to two weeks to know the results of current testing on the variant.
“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” the president said Monday at the White House, noting that the U.S. has more tools to fight the virus than ever before, including vaccines, boosters, antibody treatments and antivirals.
The variant was first detected last week by South African epidemiologists. Biden praised the African scientists’ transparency, saying their quick identification and notification of the new variant likely saved lives. He emphasized that the new travel limitations for some southern African countries are not intended to be punitive and can help buy the U.S. some time to combat the virus by getting more people vaccinated and boosted before the new variant reaches domestic shores.
Late Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its COVID-19 booster recommendations amid concerns about the new variant to formally recommend that all people over age 18 get a booster shot.