Biden rolls to Metro construction site in LA to talk infrastructure spending, jobs

President Joe Biden rolled into a Los Angeles Metro construction site on Thursday, Oct. 13 for a gathering of Southern California officials during a pivotal time as the midterm elections draw near.

Biden spoke on a wide range of topics, from lower prescription drug costs, to reducing inflation and investing in Americans bridges, roads and transit systems.

The president touted his $1 trillion infrastructure plan on Thursday while overlooking a site where a tunneling machine has paved the way for a subway line extension running under Wilshire Boulevard that will connect Downtown Los Angeles with the Westside.

“As for building infrastructure, the United States was ranked 13th in the world. We should be ranked No. 1,” he said.

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rep. Karen Bass talks to LA City Council member Paul Krekorian before President Joe Biden arrives Thursday. Photo: Steve Scauzillo

The president spoke of a provision in infrastructure law that prioritizes hiring local workers for federally funded projects. The D Line (Purple) extension has 100,000 workers, many from Southern California.

“We are standing up for working people,” Biden declared.

L.A. mayor candidate Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, was among dignitaries joining Biden at the event.

Crowd attends meeting with President Joe Biden at Metro construction site on Thursday, Photo: Sarah Reingewirtz

The three-state trip includes two days in Southern California has been characterized as part of the strategy of a president who has struggled with low poll approval rating promoting his administration’s accomplishments, while at the same time raising money for Democratic Party candidates. He was in Colorado on Wednesday and after his stay in California, is headed for Oregon on Friday.

“We’ve been very clear that the president is going to go out, the vice president is going to go out,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday. “They’re going to talk about the successes that we have seen in this administration in the last 19 months.”

President Joe Biden heads to Marine One after landing at Los Angeles International Airport for a two-day visit to the Southland on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Sen. Alex Padilla and his wife Angela Monzon greet President Joe Biden as he arrives at Los Angeles International Airport for a two-day visit to the Southland on Wednesday, October 12, 2022 as Mayor Eric Garcetti stands by. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

President Joe Biden fist pumps Mayor Eric Garcetti as he arrives at Los Angeles International Airport for a two-day visit to the Southland on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. Sen. Alex Padilla and his wife Angela Monzan and Rep. Karen Bass also greeted him.(Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport for a two-day visit to the Southland on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

President Joe Biden leaves Los Angeles International Airport on Marine One as he visits the Southland on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport for a two-day visit to the Southland on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

President Joe Biden landed in L.A. on Wednesday, Oct. 12, for a two-day swing through Southern California. On the tarmac to greet him included Sen. Alex Padilla, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Rep. Karen Bass. (Photo by Kristy Hutchings).

President Joe Biden hugs Rep. Karen Bass, who is running for LA Mayor, as he arrives at Los Angeles International Airport for a two-day visit to the Southland on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. Sen. Alex Padilla and Mayor Eric Garcetti also greeted him.(Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

President Joe Biden landed in L.A. on Wednesday, Oct. 12, for a two-day swing through Southern California. (Photo by Kristy Hutchings)

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Biden landed at LAX Wednesday afternoon.

Sen. Alex Padilla, his wife Angela, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Rep. Karen Bass, greeted the president on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport as he deplaned Air Force One. Under overcast skies, the group exchanged brief conversation, hugs and handshakes before Biden departed once more on Marine One, a presidential helicopter.

Neither Biden, nor the other elected officials present, stopped to give remarks or address the gaggle of reporters on the runway.

The location of Thursday’s event shone the spotlight on infrastructure spending in the Los Angeles area.

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The Purple (D Line) extension will extend the subway from Koreatown at Wilshire and Western to the Westwood/VA station, the western terminus, near where Biden gave his remarks.

It includes nine miles of new subway service and seven new stations. Construction, which started in 2014, is happening in three phases simultaneously, with the first section expected to be completed in 2024, the second in 2025 and the third in 2027.

The total cost of building the extension, including finance costs, is about $9.5 billion, Metro reported.

Even before the infrastructure bill was passed, the Federal Transit Administration has supplied LA Metro with grants amounting to half the cost of the extension. This included a $1.3-billion federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation given in May 2021 to help finance phase three, from Century City to the western terminus.

The event took place within the third supervisorial district, currently represented by county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who is stepping down in December. Kuehl was invited to the event but declined to attend, said a source from her office.

According to the White House, the president came to west Los Angeles  to discuss “historic investments in our nation’s infrastructure.” He will also attend the DCCC fundraiser later Thursday, then travel to Orange County on Friday to discuss “lowering costs for American families,” according to the White House. The president will leave the area Friday, bound for Portland, Oregon.

To counter Republican criticisms over the economy and inflation, Democratic candidates have highlighted accomplishments such as bipartisan infrastructure, manufacturing laws, and a sweeping climate, tax and health care package. Those achievements also helped prompt a late-summer uptick in Biden’s own job performance ratings earlier this year.

Biden will also attend a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser on Thursday, and will travel to Irvine Valley College in Orange County on Oct. 14 to speak about lowering costs for Americans.

The president’s Orange County visit will highlight “his efforts to lower prescription drug costs, protect Medicare and strengthen Social Security, and to fight efforts by congressional Republicans to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block and reinstate giveaways to Big Pharma,” according to Jean-Pierre.

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The president last visited Los Angeles in June, when he hosted the Summit of the Americas — a gathering of global political leaders. He also headlined two Democratic National Committee fundraisers on that trip. More recently, first lady Jill Biden visited L.A. last month to deliver a  commencement speech to Los Angeles Community College graduates, among other things.

This time around, the president arrived in the region mere weeks before the midterm elections — during which the Democratic Party, and the largely unpopular chief executive, are fighting to maintain majority control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

The California Republican Party chided Biden’s visit, calling the state an “odd choice” for the president to choose “as a backdrop for bragging about his failed policies,” noting the national-high cost of gas, rising crime and homelessness.

“If President Biden is looking for a sympathetic audience to high-five him for a job well done, he’s come to the wrong state,” state Republican Party Chair Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement. “Californians are suffering under the reckless policies of Joe Biden and the California Democrats who enable his failed agenda. Make no mistake — the path to the House majority runs straight through our state, and California voters will ensure that Republicans are put in charge to turn our country around from the mess that Democrats have made.”

City News Service contributed to this report