Vice President Kamala Harris visited Milwaukee on Tuesday to promote President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan, telling supporters that funding innovation was key to being able to compete globally.
Harris arrived in Milwaukee late Tuesday morning where she was greeted by Gov. Tony Evers, and Democrats U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, among others, according to an official pool report. She toured clean energy laboratories at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The Biden administration’s infrastructure proposal, which is dubbed “The American Jobs Plan,” calls for a $180 million investment in research and development, according to a summary released by the White House.
“Infrastructure is basically how are you going to get where you need to go?” Harris said at a roundtable discussion following the tour. “And part of that has to be an investment in innovation.”
Harris said the $180 million proposed for research and development was also aimed at helping the country make up for lost ground.
“We have declined steadily over the last 25 years,” Harris said. “It’s also important to gain some ground that we’ve lost over the last quarter century.”
The funding promoted by Harris Tuesday is just one piece of a proposal that is far reaching, and goes well beyond what’s typically considered infrastructure.
The proposal would spend $621 million on “transportation infrastructure and resilience” according to the White House. That includes $115 billion to modernize bridges, highways, roads and streets in need of repair.
The infrastructure bill also calls for spending $45 billion to remove lead pipes, $100 billion for broadband and $100 for the electric grid and clean energy.
The plan also calls for spending $400 billion on expanding access to home-or-community-based care for the elderly and people with disabilities.
“The fight around expanding the definition of infrastructure is upon us,” Moore told Harris during the roundtable. “We can’t just see it as roads and bridges.”
Biden has also alluded to Wisconsin when promoting other elements of the wide-ranging infrastructure bill recently. At a recent speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of Amtrak, Biden floated the idea of connecting Milwaukee, Green Bay and Madison through new investments in rail. Biden wants to spend a total of $80 billion on Amtrak projects.
Tuesday’s trip is Harris’ first Wisconsin visit since taking office in January. Biden visited Milwaukee in February when he promoted a ramp-up in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Democrats celebrated Harris’ visit ahead of her Milwaukee stop.
“Today’s visit by the Vice President to Milwaukee, so early into the first term, drives home how committed President Biden and Vice President Harris are to getting Wisconsin families and small businesses the support they need to not only recover from the pandemic but to bounce back better,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler in a written statement. “So many Wisconsinites feel both pride and relief to have a true federal partner who is committed to investing in our people and infrastructure to make our cities and our state a better place. As we begin to recover from such a difficult year, this visit is just what the doctor ordered.”
Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, suggested the infrastructure plan is a case of misplaced priorities.
“More than 70 percent of President Biden’s so-called ‘infrastructure plan’ will be spent on programs few would even consider infrastructure,” Johnson said in a written statement. “It should be interesting to see how Vice President Harris tries to justify this $2.25 trillion spending boondoggle. Instead of creating more opportunities, it will kill people’s jobs, increase their taxes, and further implement radical leftists’ agenda. Happy to have her visit Milwaukee, but she really ought to inspect the crisis President Biden created at the border.”
The Republican Party of Wisconsin also criticized Harris’ visit, saying she should instead be visiting southern border states.
“Kamala Harris should be visiting the southern border, given it has been nearly a month and a half since being tasked with managing the border crisis, and she still has not found time to address a problem that has spiraled out of control,” said party chair Andrew Hitt in a prepared statement. “To make matters worse, she is coming to Wisconsin to promote Biden’s wasteful $6 trillion tax and spending plan that will ruin the economic recovery and saddle our children with insurmountable debt.”
Speaking a press conference in Milwaukee on Tuesday afternoon, Hitt also argued the infrastructure proposal will jeopardize the economy as it is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. State party vice chairman Gerard Randall argued the plan has the wrong priorities, saying it should focus on full federal funding of lead pipe replacement and more investment in job training for students and workers.