Biden hails passage of infrastructure plan as 'monumental step forward'

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The final passage of the huge infrastructure deal marks a resounding victory for US President Joe Biden (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)
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US President Joe Biden on Saturday hailed congressional passage of his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan as a "monumental step forward" after months of tough negotiations.

Speaking from the White House, he also insisted that both houses of Congress would pass a separate and even bigger social spending package -- the "Build Back Better" plan -- despite infighting between the progressive and moderate wings of his Democratic Party.

The breakthrough on infrastructure came shortly before midnight Friday when House lawmakers finally approved a Senate-passed bill by a comfortable 228 votes to 206.

"I don't think it's an exaggeration to suggest that we took a monumental step forward as a nation" with that vote, Biden said.

He called the plan "a once-in-a-generation investment that's going to create millions of jobs," saying it would also put the country "on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century that we face with China" and other countries.

Looking directly into the camera to address voters across the country -- many of them concerned about rising prices, Covid restrictions and political division -- Biden said, "This bill is for you... a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America."

Early Friday, passage was far from assured.

Despite hours of cajoling lawmakers, party leaders had risked seeing Biden's two-pronged legislative strategy collapse as they failed to unite the party's feuding progressive and moderate factions.

The legacy-making vote Friday came at a pivotal time for Biden, as he faced plunging personal approval ratings and a humiliating upset defeat for his Democratic Party in the Virginia gubernatorial election.

His spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the success was "proof that delivering for the American people is worth all the painful sausage making."

"Clean drinking water for kids, broadband access, electric vehicles, biggest investment in public transit. It's happening. And more to come," she tweeted.

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