Harris says Senate vote on infrastructure is ‘point of pride’ for the White House

Appeared in the Washington Times.

Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday that bipartisan support for the administration’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal is a “point of pride,” and the measure will upgrade transportation systems and broadband service that she described anecdotally as “embarrassing.”

Speaking at a virtual forum for small business owners, Ms. Harris noted that 67 senators, including 17 Republicans, voted on Wednesday night to advance the bill.

“I will speak for the president and myself to say it’s a point of pride that it was a bipartisan deal,” Ms. Harris said.

She said the contributions and challenges of small businesses “really don’t have much to do with who they voted for in the last election, or will in the next election.”

“It has to do with what they need to do on the ground every day to actually be successful and add value to their communities,” the vice president said.

The measure still faces more debate before a final Senate vote, as well as an uncertain fate in the House.

White House adviser Mike Donilon released a memo Thursday stating that a majority of voters in battleground congressional districts want a new infrastructure bill passed with bipartisan support, citing several polls by No Labels-HarrisX this summer that found support ranging from 52% to 72%.

“The American people believe this is a good deal for our country,” Mr. Donilon wrote. “While a lot of pundits have doubted bipartisanship was even possible, the American people have been very clear it is what they want.”

The vice president said she met recently with business owner Meagan Kaiser of Perry Agricultural Laboratory in Bowling Green, Missouri, who told of her frustration with the lack of high-speed Internet service. She said it hampered her soil-testing company’s ability to send reports to customers around the world.

“She basically let on that it’s kind of embarrassing because she wants to be thought of as a world-class business, but if she doesn’t have the infrastructure to support what she is doing,” Ms. Harris said.

Ms. Kaiser said in a Facebook video in 2018 that it would cost her firm $40,000 to connect to a nearby high-speed service line, plus about $800 per month in user fees.

The vice president said U.S. infrastructure “needs an upgrade.”

“It will make a once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure, positioning our small businesses to compete in the 21st century,” she said.

The Job Creators Network Foundation released a survey of 500 small businesses on Thursday showing that optimism increased slightly in July. But the survey also found that business owners “continued to be most concerned about inflation, operating costs, and customer spending,” the group said.

“Potential public policy changes down the road also sparked unease,” the foundation said. “Fifty-four percent of respondents believe that tax hikes proposed by the Biden administration will hurt small businesses.”

Small Business Administrator Isabel Guzman told the White House forum that the U.S. economy “is clearly on the road to recovery.” But she said small businesses are still facing uncertainty due to the resurgence in cases of COVID-19.

“The bipartisan infrastructure deal announced [Wednesday] will be a game-changer, providing unprecedented investments in infrastructure and enhancing our global competitiveness,” Ms. Guzman said.