PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — President Joe Biden went to Portsmouth Harbor in New Hampshire on Tuesday to highlight how last year's infrastructure bill can improve shipping and help resolve the country's supply chain debacles that have contributed to inflation at a 40-year high.
The president used the trip to say that America is healthier than ever as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and a severe but short recession. It's a crucial message as polling suggests many voters are uncomfortable about the future and Biden's own economic leadership as high inflation has overwhelmed the job gains during his watch.
“We’re the only country in the world that I believe has come out of every crisis we faced stronger than when we went in,” Biden said. “Literally, stronger than we went in. That’s the history of the journey of this country.”
Biden’s destination was the state’s only deep water harbor, making it a critical way station for home heating oil, fiberoptic cables and rock gypsum, which is used to produce drywall. Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan faces New Hampshire voters this year as she seeks a second term. Her seat is a Democratic bulwark in the evenly split Senate, one that the administration seeks to protect.
Under the $1 trillion infrastructure law, $1.7 million will be used to dredge the harbor's shipping channel and basin. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already spent $18.2 million to make it easier for larger ships to access the harbor, a project intended to reduce delays that cause higher prices for consumers.
Overall, the law includes $17 billion for upgrading port facilities at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused havoc on international supply chains. The president rattled off the other infrastructure investments from the law, including the replacement of lead water pipes, the build-out of broadband internet, projects to protect against climate change and repairs to roads and bridges.
“There’s so much more in this law. I’m not going to bore you with the rest of it, but it's significant," said Biden, whose speech then touched on inflation coming out of the pandemic, Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, taxes, prescription drug prices and lowering the budget deficit.
Biden's trip is his second to New Hampshire as president. The state was his first stop after he signed the infrastructure legislation in November, and he spoke in front of an old bridge that's overdue for repairs.
The president has repeatedly focused on these kinds of initiatives as his more ambitious agenda to boost education, social services and climate change initiatives remains stalled.
With the midterm elections approaching later this year, Biden is eager to convince voters that one of his administration's top accomplishments is creating concrete progress after years of unfulfilled promises from his predecessor, President Donald Trump, who never cut a deal on infrastructure spending.