VP Harris takes infrastructure victory lap in Columbus

By: - November 20, 2021 11:18 am

VP Kamala Harris speaking in Columbus. Photo by Nick Evans, OCJ.

Vice President Kamala Harris braved the November chill to tout the bipartisan infrastructure bill in Columbus Friday. The measure, signed into law earlier this week, sends more than $10 billion to Ohio over the next five years, funding investments in roadways, broadband, the energy grid and water lines.

Dignitaries and guests packed rows of red vinyl chairs at Local 189 of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union. Harris told union members in the crowd that with the infrastructure bill signed into law, they should get ready to roll up their sleeves.

“It will replace lead service lines and pipes so that Americans can get clean drinking water, and that’s about plumbers and pipe fitters. We’re going to need you to do that work,” Harris said.

U.S. President Joe Biden signs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The vast majority of funding headed to Ohio is a more than $9 billion increase in federal highway programs, and about half a billion dollars more for bridges. The state will also get more than $1 billion each for public transit and water infrastructure. Another quarter billion is earmarked for airports and $100 million is set aside for expanding broadband access around the state. In addition, Ohio can apply for dollars from a handful of competitive funding pools.

Part victory lap, part charm offensive, the vice president’s visit is one example of a coordinated effort to sell the administration’s accomplishments. Next year’s midterm election will likely be challenging, and the administration’s other marquee legislative proposal is still working its way through Congress. Harris struck an optimistic tone, congratulating Columbus Congresswoman and head of the Congressional Black Caucus Joyce Beatty on helping to secure that bill’s passage in the House early Friday morning.

“As significant as it is, as historic as it is, our bipartisan infrastructure law is part one of two,” Harris said. “We are determined to lower the cost of living for working people in America. To lower the cost of living means taking serious, serious care of paying attention to the cost of childcare, the cost of health care, the cost of housing, the cost of prescription drugs, and so that’s what our build back better agenda is about.”

That proposal, known as the Build Back Better bill, invests in what Biden has termed human infrastructure. It now heads to the Senate for a vote. The addition of paid family leave among other provisions could complicate passage in the upper chamber. But Harris said she and President Biden are confident the legislation will make it to the president’s desk.



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.