President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) will make a rare joint appearance in Kentucky on Jan. 4 to highlight the president’s $1.2 trillion spending plan, the White House announced Sunday.
Joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, and Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, the two are to appear at a ceremony highlighting the $1.64 billion in funding recently awarded to the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project. The federal grant came under an over $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law by Biden in 2021.
“To kick off the new year, @POTUS, @VP, @SecretaryPete, @MitchLandrieu46 will crisscross the country to highlight how the President’s work bringing Republicans, Independents, and Democrats together is growing our economy,” White House Deputy Communications Director Herbie Ziskend said via Twitter.
Biden’s bipartisanship blitz will come a day after the GOPs retake control of the House on Jan. 3 following GOP gains in the November midterm elections. While the shift ends the Democrats’ unified political control of Congress and complicates Biden’s future legislative agenda. Biden and his team are also seeking cross-party support.
McConnell, of Kentucky, was among the Republicans who voted for the 2021 infrastructure law, despite many House Republicans opposing it, including House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). McConnell said the companion bridge “will be one of the bill’s crowning accomplishments.”
The long-awaited project, connecting the two states across the Ohio River, includes a new bridge and rehabilitation of the heavily congested 60-year-old one constructed in the 1960s, carrying both I-75 and I-71 traffic through the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region. Officials say the bridge has seen doubled traffic loads on its narrow lanes since the beginning, leading the Federal Highway Administration to declare it functionally obsolete.
DeWine said both states have been discussing the project for almost two decades “and now, we can finally move beyond the talk and get to work.”
Groundbreaking on the project is expected for late 2023 and substantial completion for 2029.
Former President Donald Trump once attacked McConnell in a statement after Biden’s spending bill passed, blaming the GOP leader for failing to pass his infrastructure bill when he was in office and Republicans led both the Senate and House.
“Why is it that Old Crow Mitch McConnell voted for a terrible Democrat Socialist Infrastructure Plan, and induced others in his Party to do likewise, when he was incapable of getting a great Infrastructure Plan wanting to be put forward by me and the Republican Party?” Trump said.
Despite criticism from those within his own party, McConnell doubled down on his support of the bipartisan infrastructure law. “The infrastructure bill did not raise taxes. It did not revisit the 2017 tax bill. From a Kentucky point of view, it was extremely good for our state. I’m proud of my vote,” he said.
Biden’s visit to Greater Cincinnati is part of a wider campaign by his administration to tout its economic plan, including passing the 2021 bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
In Chicago on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris will discuss “how the President’s economic plan is rebuilding our infrastructure, creating good-paying jobs – jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, and revitalizing communities left behind,” the White House said in its announcement.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was delivering the same message in New London, Connecticut, also on Wednesday.
Mitch Landrieu, the White House official tasked with promoting infrastructure spending, will join soon-to-be former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday in San Francisco, which she represents in Congress.
Biden was scheduled to return to the White House on Monday after spending nearly a week with family on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The president opened New Year’s Day on Sunday by watching the first sunrise of 2023 and attending Mass at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Christiansted, where he has attended religious services during his past visits to the island.
Before the president departed Washington for vacation at the end of last year, Biden appealed for less partisanship, saying he hoped everyone will see each other “not as Democrats or Republicans, not as members of ‘Team Red’ or ‘Team Blue,’ but as who we really are, fellow Americans.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.