Monday, July 22, 2024

White House infrastructure czar Landrieu leaving job and expected to make case for Biden reelection

by Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu is leaving his post after two years and is expected to help push publicly for President Joe Biden’s reelection.

The Democratic president tasked the former New Orleans mayor with setting up a system to invest more than $1 trillion over the coming years on roads, bridges, sewer systems, fiberoptic cable, ports and an array of other projects tied to the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law.

Landrieu, departing his post with more than 40,000 projects announced, would have been limited in his ability to advocate for Biden as a federal employee.

Going forward, the infrastructure team will be led by deputy White House chief of staff Natalie Quillian, who oversees the implementation of major bills enacted under Biden.

Biden said he knew Landrieu, who helped rebuild New Orleans after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, was “the man to help me rebuild the country.”

“Mitch has always known that the real measure of success is not about scoring partisan points — it’s about building bridges, and fixing the problem at hand,” Biden said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.

Landrieu, who also plans to work in the private sector promoting clean energy, logged more than 119,000 miles (192,000 kilometers) as he worked with governors, mayors and other officials on accessing the money, venturing into areas where few Democrats go and introducing himself at rural antique stores and in coal towns.

Landrieu, 63, is among the Biden loyalists who could one day aspire to the Oval Office. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are also helping the reelection effort and drawing speculation about 2028.

Before the 2020 election, Landrieu was mentioned as a possible Democratic challenger to Republican Donald Trump. As a mayor and former lieutenant governor in Republican Louisiana, he made racial equality a priority by removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments.

Under Landrieu’s watch, 6,100 federal employees have been hired to help distribute infrastructure funds. He’s expressed some worry about the fate of projects that can take a decade or more to complete if a Republican administration takes power and wants to cut spending.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., credited Landrieu for working to ensure that infrastructure money went to Republican and Democratic communities alike, even though just 13 GOP House members voted for the package.

“Vote no and take the dough is kind of their motto, but he treated everybody the same, as if everybody had voted for the bill,” Pelosi said in an interview.

Landrieu nonetheless faced some GOP criticism over how the money was dispensed. In 2022, 16 Republican governors sent a letter to Biden objecting to how the infrastructure law was being implemented, citing “excessive consideration” of social equity, climate change and union workers.

“Your administration should not attempt to push a social agenda through hard infrastructure investments and instead should consider economically sound principles that align with state priorities,” the letter said.

Landrieu has stressed infrastructure as a nonpartisan issue, saying, “There is no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole. Everybody just wants the damn pothole filled.”

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