With Biden signing infrastructure bill, Pa. Dems go on offense to sell it | Monday Morning Coffee

President Joe Biden is set to sign the $1.2 trillion bill into law today. Democrats aren’t wasting any time touting its home state benefits

November 15, 2021 7:11 am

President Joe Biden talks on the phone with Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) following the Senate vote to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, Aug. 10, 2021, in the Oval Office Dining Room of the White House. (Adam Schultz/Official White House Photo)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

President Joe Biden is set to sign the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law today, and it looks like he’s bringing the full weight of the White House’s pomp and circumstance machine to bear as he does it.

As Reuters reported Friday, officials were considering holding the signing ceremony on the White House’s camera-ready South Lawn, where Marine One takes off and lands, with a large-for-COVID crowd on hand to witness it.

There’s a good reason for that: Democrats are still haunted by the party’s low-key approach in taking credit for, and promoting, the 2009 stimulus bill signed into law by Biden’s old boss, former President Barack Obama.

Yes, there were signs advertising projects built under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. If you were driving around in the early ‘Aughts, you probably saw them. But you probably had no idea why they mattered, nor who was responsible for them. That’s because Obama was reluctant to hit the road and promote them, leaving the sales job, coincidentally to Biden.

While it wouldn’t have saved them, Democrats still paid the price for the poor sales job in the 2010 mid-terms, as the Tea Party wave washed over Washington and state Legislatures across the country — including Pennsylvania.

Now, with the 2022 midterms looming, and the same prospect of Republican takeover on Capitol Hill a very real possibility, Democrats aren’t leaving anything to chance. In the two weeks since the bill passed, the White House and its surrogates have been mercilessly hyping the bill’s impact at the local level.

“Democrats have never done a good job of telling people what we have done,” U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, of South Carolina, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, told the New York Times. “We’ve got to do the work, sure, but then we’ve got to go back and tell people that we’ve done it. We got to get off our duffs.”

Pennsylvania Democrats clearly got the memo: Last week, they held a series of events across the state, explaining, in nearly forensic detail, what the bill will pay for and how it will help residents of a state whose votes could very well help determine the balance of power on Capitol Hill next November.

That started in the hours after the vote, as members of the Keystone State’s congressional delegation blasted out statements with dollar-for-dollar details on the money the commonwealth could expect to receive.

All told, across the nation, the bill includes:

  • $351 billion for highways and bridges
  • $107 billion for transit
  • $73 billion for electric grid infrastructure
  • $66 billion for passenger rail
  • $55 billion for drinking water infrastructure
  • $42 billion for broadband deployment
  • $25 billion for airports
  • $17 billion for ports
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations
  • $7.5 billion for electric buses and ferries

Of that total, according to a statement by U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle’s, D-2nd District, office, Pennsylvania can expect to receive:

  • $11.3 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $1.6 billion for bridge replacement
  • $2.8 billion over five years to improve public transportation options across the state
  •  $171 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state
  • $49 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $26 million to protect against cyberattacks
  •  $1.4 billion over five years to improve water infrastructure across the state and ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities
(Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune)

During an appearance in Philadelphia last TuesdayU.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, touted the literal ground-level improvements the stimulus bill will provide for Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighborhood, which was bifurcated by the Roosevelt Boulevard and Vine Street expressways, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune reported.

The Nicetown Community Development Corporation says it plans to use the money to develop a $9 million sports court project beneath the elevated portion of the Roosevelt Boulevard Highway, the Tribune reported. The project is slated to include basketball courts, rain gardens, a skate park, a small amphitheater and a plaza for vendors, the newspaper reported.

“Part of what the Nicetown CDC has been doing for years is to bring connectivity to the Germantown Avenue commercial corridor — where people were displaced and businesses were displaced,” Majeedah Rashid, chief operating officer of Nicetown CDC, said during a news conference, the Tribune reported. “We’re really grateful that the congressman has taken a look at our sports court plan and what it brings to the neighborhood of Nicetown.”

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, on a 11/10/21 conference call put together by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, touting the benefits of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill (Screen Capture)

A day later, Democratic members of the state’s Capitol Hill delegation held a conference call where they touted projects across the state that the bill will eventually underwrite when it becomes law.

They include:

  • A new rail line connecting Scranton to New York City.
  • Repairs to the bustling Route 22 in the Lehigh Valley.
  • Money for mass-transit, including SEPTA in Philadelphia.
  • Expanded broadband that will connect rural Pennsylvanians to tele-health services.
  • And money to pay for cleaning up so-called “forever chemicals” around a former military installation in suburban Philadelphia.

“I can’t help but think of the jobs it will create in districts like mine and [U.S. Rep] Matt’s [Cartwright, D-8th District] and U.S. Rep. Madeleine’s [Dean, D-4th District] will all see an influx of really good jobs,” she said. “It will create investment and opportunity that turbocharges investment for years to come,” said U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, whose 7th District seat includes the chronically clogged Route 22.

Democrats held a similar event in Harrisburg on Friday, where state Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, and Democratic Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick engaged in an identical sales job, CBS-21 in Harrisburg reported.

“Let’s not just make this about projects. Let’s make it about men and women who are going to be able to benefit, communities who are going to be able to benefit from safer drinking water, safer roads, the ability for us to transport goods and products and what that means to them and their families.” said Hartwick said, according to CBS-21.

While this surrogate sales job is important, some Democrats say it’s up to Biden himself to make sure that he hits the road to sell the bill’s benefits to the voters.

“When you do fundamentally helpful things for people, and you make sure they know about it, you will get credit for it,” Jared Bernstein, a longtime Biden economic adviser told the Times.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

Today is America Recycles Day (Yes, that is a thing). And in this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller runs down the state of recycling in Pennsylvania — by the numbers.

Ten years after the Jerry Sandusky case, more work is needed to protect Pa.’s kids, an abuse prevention advocate tells Cassie Miller.

The process for sorting out which states and cities may receive more federal rental aid money and which may see reductions — including right here in Pennsylvania — begins today, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson writes.

The Democratic primary field for Center City Philadelphia’s 182nd House District, currently held by Rep. Brian Simsis getting crowded. Our partners at City & State PA. run down the players.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who, you may have heard, is running for governor, has pledged to pass a long-sought, anti-discrimination bill if he wins next November, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

More than 400 Pa. schools are participating in a voluntary COVID-19 testing program, Cassie Miller also reports.

In Philadelphia, a storefront art exhibition aims to uplift Black- and brown-owned businesses, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, columnist Max McCoy, of our sibling site, the Kansas Reflector, says we could lose our democracy to a toxic stew of conspiracy & partisanship. He has some ideas on what do next. And the Charlottesville defendants tried to turn their trial into a platform for hate, opinion regular Dick Polman writes.

En la Estrella-Capital: El Senador de Pa. Gene Yaw anuncia planes de legislación para gravar y regular ‘juegos de habilidad’. Y los municipios del oeste de Pa. demandan al estado para bloquear el plan de PennDOT del peaje del puente.

Our news partners at City & State PA will recognize 40 individuals under the age of 40, who have already distinguished themselves in their fields during a 6 p.m. reception on Nov. 16 at Level 2 in Harrisburg. The event features keynote remarks by House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, and additional remarks by state Reps. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, and Jason Ortitay, R-Washington.


Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner says prosecutors spent years hiding evidence in a 2003 murder case, the Inquirer reports.

Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Ed Gainey’s Nov. 2 election win will spark special elections for a pair of Pittsburgh-based state House seats, the Post-Gazette reports.

LancasterOnline checks in on the struggles of COVID-19 long-haulers.

Complaints allege that a suburban Allentown mayor stalked and inappropriately touched female employees, the Morning Call reports (paywall).

Despite late-night negotiations, Scranton’s teachers’ strike has dragged into a new week, the Times-Tribune reports.

Philadelphia failed to meet its diverse contracting goal in 2020, WHYY-FM reports.

State lawmakers and prison reform advocates are looking to expand the eligibility for compassionate releaseWESA-FM reports (via WITF-FM).

A road extension project aims to improve links between downtown Erie and the city’s bayfrontGoErie reports.

Roll Call runs down the sections of the House budget package that could see changes.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The House comes in at noon today.
9:30 a.m., 515 Irvis: House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Family Law
10 a.m., 205 Ryan: House Labor & Industry Committee
10 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Professional Licensure Committee
10 a.m., Sheet Metal Workers Union Bldg. 1301 South Christopher Columbus Blvd. Philadelphia: Senate Democratic Policy Committee
10:30 a.m., 523 Irvis: House Education Committee
11 am., B31 Main Capitol: Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
4 p.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Legislative Reapportionment Commission

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. David Rowe
10:30 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Keith Gillespie
11 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Craig Staats
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Jeanne McNeill
5:30 pm.: Reception for Rep. Jennifer O’Mara
5:30 p.m: Reception for Rep. Mike Sturla
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Patty Kim
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Mike Driscoll
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out an utterly unnecessary $19,500 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
North Carolina pop legend, Mitch Easter, a formidable producer who helped coax the first two R.E.M. records to life, marks another trip around the sun today. In the 1980s, Easter also fronted the wonderful Let’s Active, who made a quartet of fantastic records before packing it in at the turn of the 1990s. That band marks its 40th anniversary this month. And from their sophomore full-length, Big Plans for Everybody, here’s the driving and psychedelic ‘In Little Ways.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The New York Rangers topped the visiting New Jersey Devils, notching a dramatic 4-3 win in a shootout on Sunday nightNew York’s Kaapo Kakko had a goal and an assist, logging his first points of the season, according to

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.