President Biden and his team have entered a “do more with less” phase of his economic agenda, dictated by the political realities of a closely divided Congress.
The bipartisan compromise on an infrastructure package that Mr. Biden struck with centrist senators last month spends only about 40 percent of what Mr. Biden initially proposed for broadband, electric vehicles and water infrastructure in the American Jobs Plan he unveiled in March.
But White House officials insist that the bipartisan deal would still accomplish all of the president’s goals, including replacing every lead drinking pipe in America and connecting every home to high-speed internet. In a speech on Wednesday, Mr. Biden gave no hint that he was scaling back his ambitions.
“It’s time that we have to think bigger and we have to act bolder,” Mr. Biden said at a community college in suburban Chicago, his latest stop in a tour to rally support for his agenda. “This is going to be an American century.”
Biden aides say they have found creative ways to stretch federal dollars, often by leveraging private investment, in order to maintain the president’s top goals for his economic program. But they have had to scrap other targets as a result, and Mr. Biden is now barreling toward another round of potentially difficult compromises, this time forced by moderates in his own party, over the second half of his agenda, known as the American Families Plan.
The negotiations ahead will pose a challenge to the expansive vision Mr. Biden laid out to overhaul the American economy, with new and costly government interventions to lift advanced industries and train and support the workers of the future. His objective in the weeks to come will be to pack as much of that agenda as possible into a pair of bills that are unlikely to spend as much as he wants, with his economic legacy hanging on the choices he and congressional leaders make.
Mr. Biden has repeatedly said he had to make difficult choices on physical infrastructure and settle for a deal that falls well short of his ambitions. Administration officials say Mr. Biden will continue to prioritize large and unifying national goals, including the extension of an enlarged tax credit for parents, the creation of America’s first federally funded paid leave program for workers and a government guarantee of four additional years of public education via preschool and community college.
“The president is fully committed to delivering on the full ambition of the jobs plan and the families plan,” Brian Deese, the director of the White House National Economic Council, said in an interview.
“But,” Mr. Deese added, “I think the president has made clear that he understands the nature of the legislative process — that he understands that at the end of the day, nobody’s going to get everything that they want.”