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Biden launches ‘Building a Better America tour’ on Kansas City trip

President was joined by area Democratic members Cleaver and Davids

President Joe Biden speaks about the new infrastructure law Wednesday while visiting the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority in Missouri.
President Joe Biden speaks about the new infrastructure law Wednesday while visiting the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority in Missouri. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden traveled Wednesday to the Kansas City area to kick off a newly branded tour to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law.

“Our Building a Better America tour is going to give us a chance to meet people where they work … and hear what the communities that they live in, what they need — to hear firsthand and showcase our bipartisan infrastructure law, which has changed their lives for the better and came about because we worked together,” Biden said after touring a Kansas City Area Transportation Authority facility.

He also promoted the launch of Build.gov, which links to a new White House website about the infrastructure law.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House principal deputy press secretary, told reporters Wednesday aboard Air Force One that the new law would help fund major projects on both sides of the Missouri River, including a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

“It will also help Kansas City’s ambitious ‘zero fare, zero emissions’ plan to reduce pollution and increase opportunity by providing free public transit and transitioning its bus fleet to electric buses,” she said.

Jean-Pierre also mentioned the effort to replace the Buck O’Neil Bridge, which opened in 1956. The bridge’s namesake, a standout for the old Kansas City Monarchs, was announced Sunday as a 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee by the hall’s Early Baseball Era Committee.

Biden referenced O’Neil after commenting briefly on former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who died on Sunday. Biden is scheduled to participate in events in Washington on Thursday and Friday to commemorate the late Kansas Republican.

“Another great American giant, or rather an American monarch, Buck O’Neil, Kansas City Monarchs, a great ballplayer, the first Black coach in the majors, one of the game’s greatest ambassadors and finally, finally, a Hall of Famer,” the president said. “Now if the sun’s shining a little brighter on Kansas City this week, it’s because Bob and Buck are up there, sharing a laugh with one another.”

Biden also continued his pattern of thanking home-state lawmakers for supporting the infrastructure law. He was joined Wednesday by the Democratic House members representing each state’s side of Kansas City: Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Sharice Davids of Kansas.

A Methodist minister who spent eight years as Kansas City, Mo., mayor in the 1990s, Cleaver has been a fixture in the House since 2005, but Missouri Republicans appear interested in trying to draw his district out of existence as part of the ongoing redistricting.

Speaking ahead of the president Wednesday, Cleaver recalled his mayoral days, when he would hope for additional federal infrastructure investment.

“And I went to Congress, waiting for the infrastructure ship to come in, year after year after year. And I knew based on how he campaigned, that infrastructure was going to be something that a President Joe Biden would push and get through. And I also realize that one of the ways to get that ship in is to swim out and help put it ashore,” Cleaver said. “And that’s what I did in Congress, along with Sharice Davids; help pull it ashore, even though I had to stand alone in Missouri as the only person from Missouri in the House to vote for this.”

The other Missouri Democrat in the House, St. Louis-area Rep. Cori Bush, voted against the infrastructure bill. Sen. Roy Blunt. R-Mo., was not in attendance Wednesday but nonetheless got a bipartisan shoutout from the president. He was the only senator from either Kansas or Missouri to support the infrastructure law.

“And I’m proud — it’s one of the proudest votes I’ve ever taken,” Cleaver said Wednesday.

“It’s time to stop just repairing our grandparents’ infrastructure,” said Davids, who spoke before Cleaver. “It’s time to start innovating. It’s time to start championing innovations that are going to make a great economy for our future generations, for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.”

“I, of course, have to bring up fellow Kansan, President Eisenhower, who knew a thing or two about bringing an economy back, by investing in infrastructure. We get to do that here and now. This is the opportunity we have in front of us,” the second-term congresswoman added.

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