Biden pushes electric vehicles, sticking point in infrastructure talks

President Joe Biden called on the United States to become the world leader in the production of electric vehicles on a Tuesday trip outside of Detroit, doubling a component of its $ 2.3 trillion in jobs and infrastructure that Republicans opposed in negotiations.

Biden visited Ford Motor Co.’s electric vehicle plant in Dearborn, Mich., As Ford launched its all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck, showcasing a facility it relies on to push the United States ahead of China in electric vehicles.

It has come as Biden and Republicans in Congress remain at odds over what should be included in a bipartisan infrastructure package. A $ 568 billion counter-offer from Senate Republicans stick to roads, bridges, ports, airports and broadband infrastructure – leaving out more ambitious things Biden backed such as investments in electric vehicles, Home Care and technology to fight climate change.

“The future of the auto industry is electric. There is no turning back,” Biden said in a speech calling on the United States to “move fast” to catch up. “The real question is whether we are going to lead or fall behind in the race towards the future – whether we will build these cars and the batteries that go into them here in the United States or whether we depend on other countries. “

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Biden spoke in front of a blue banner with the slogan “A future made in America.” He said the rest of the world is “not waiting” as he called on government, industry and workers to “step up” to speed up the pace of production. He called his jobs and infrastructure plan “the playbook” for leading the way in electric vehicles.

US sales of plug-in electric vehicles are one-third of China’s, and while China has 800,000 public charging stations, the United States has only 100,000.

Biden’s U.S. Jobs Plan would inject $ 174 billion into electric vehicle expansion, including $ 15 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country by 2030.

“Right now, China is leading this race,” Biden said. “Don’t worry. It’s a fact.”

“They think they are going to win,” he added, “but I have news for them, they will not win this race. We cannot let them go. We have to go fast, and that is. are you “doing here. “

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Biden’s plan also includes $ 25 billion to electrify city buses, $ 20 billion to convert 20% of the country’s school buses to electric buses, and $ 15 billion to boost energy department research and development. on batteries, semiconductors and other electric vehicle technologies.

The employment plan aims to replace 50,000 diesel public transport vehicles with electric versions; converting federal fleets, including postal service trucks, to electric vehicles; offer incentives to encourage the sale and purchase of electric vehicles; and offer tax credits to revive the manufacture of electric vehicles.

After his remarks, the president’s motorcade made an unscheduled stop at a Ford test facility, where Biden tested one of Ford’s new electric trucks. He hit the accelerator pedal.

“This sucker is fast,” he said as he hissed at reporters.

While Biden delivered his speech in Michigan, senior White House officials including Steve Ricchetti, adviser to the president, met with six Republican lawmakers to discuss the GOP’s next counter-proposal. The group was led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va. The White House contingent also included Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Biden said he expected Republicans to come up with another counter-offer by Wednesday. The White House said it was “encouraged” by the latest discussions.

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President Joe Biden arrives to speak after a tour of the Ford Rouge EV Center Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan.

Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell drew a line in the negotiations, calling Biden’s proposal to raise corporate taxes to pay for expenses “non-starter. And offering support only for traditional physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges and broadband.

In a meeting last week between legislative leaders and the president, electric vehicles “came across as something (Republicans) might not like too much,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, to journalists.

Senator Susan Collins of R-Maine – often an alternative vote on major legislation – insisted on Buttigieg during a Senate committee last month on why the administration’s package offers more for electric vehicles than the 157 billions of dollars combined for other transportation infrastructure, including roads.

“It’s certainly appropriate to look to the future and adapt to future, cleaner modes of transportation,” Collins said. “But what the administration is doing is spending billions more on subsidies for electric vehicles than on the roads and bridges they will run on.”

Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House does not expect Tuesday’s negotiating round to be the “end of the discussion” and that other conversations will follow.

“Certainly the president’s trip to Michigan will be on the minds of officials on our side,” Psaki said.

In a related electric vehicle push, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., on Tuesday introduced a bill requiring all cars on U.S. roads to be carbon-free. Clean Cars for America legislation would set a deadline ten years earlier than that of the International Energy Agency.

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Republicans and other electric vehicle critics have warned the transition will lead to job cuts in manufacturing – a narrative the White House has worked to counteract. Psaki said Biden saw his role as “looking to see where job creation can be for the future and not just resting on the laurels of the past.”

During Biden’s visit to the Ford plant, a Ford employee and a member of the United Auto Workers union showed a network of charging stations to the president. “I’ll be damned,” Biden said, watching a video detailing how Ford’s manufacturing technology works.

“You should be able to get in an electric vehicle and drive across the country without having to worry,” Biden said, touting the federal government’s role in making that a possibility by building a network of charging stations.

“We’re at an inflection point in America,” Biden said. “Either we’re going to move out and take control of this area, or we’re going to be left behind.”

Ledyard King of USA TODAY and Todd Spangler of Detroit Free Press contributed reporting.

Join Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

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