Biden Admin Defends Child Care Being Part of Infrastructure Plan as Crucial to Competitiveness

The Biden administration is defending its decision to include items not traditionally considered "infrastructure" in its $2 trillion infrastructure package—including billions for child care and home health care—by saying they are crucial to helping revive the economy.

"It's core to our competitiveness," Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo told reporters Wednesday of the decision to include what she dubbed the "care economy" in the bill.

Without access to quality care, she said, families struggle to join or stay in the workforce.

Raimondo's defense of the proposed package during a White House press briefing is one of many efforts by the administration as it tries to make the case for the infrastructure plan. Polls show the plan is popular among the public but faces pushback from Republicans and other members of Congress who will be crucial to its passage.

Republicans opposed to Biden's plan—in particular, its massive price tag following the recent passage of a separate $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill—have pushed back on items it funds that haven't been covered in infrastructure packages and proposals before.

An analysis from the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a public policy group, found that Biden's proposal calls for $388 billion to modernize schools and child care facilities, upgrades to the nation's Veterans Affairs hospitals and other federal buildings, and an updating of the nation's housing stock.

Another $400 billion would be put toward expanding access to long-term, home and community-based care services through Medicaid. About $380 billion would be put toward investing in broadband, the nation's electrical grid and its water systems.

The Biden administration has spent the week pushing back against GOP lawmakers who have been highlighting those items for not being traditional "infrastructure" improvements.

Biden said he wants his plan to gain bipartisan support for congressional passage. During a public address Wednesday, he defended the package's scope, calling the plan a "once in a generation" investment in the American economy.

"I've heard from my Republican friends, who say, 'It's too big.' They say, 'Why not focus on traditional infrastructure?'" Biden said. "The idea of infrastructure has always evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs, and it's evolving again today."

Biden Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also debated the "infrastructure" definition.

"I would say that infrastructure is the foundation that makes it possible for Americans to thrive and live lives of their choosing," he said during an appearance on CNN on Wednesday.

"I know there's a tendency in Washington to slice them into one piece at a time, but that's a philosophical or academic exercise. At the end of the day, this plan is about a stronger economy that helps Americans live better. And I think that's one of the reasons why it commends remarkable support among the American people," Buttigieg said.

Raimondo, a former governor of Rhode Island, said the business community is also behind the larger scope of the plan.

"Every single business leader I've talked to applauds the fact that this package is more than just roads, bridges and water," she said. "Come on, 35 percent of Americans in rural areas don't have broadband. You cannot have a modern economy without that."

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of vaccinations in the nation on April 6. Alex Wong/Getty Images