Biden’s economic advisor says America needs an updated definition of infrastructure

Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, answers a question as she sits near an exhibit titled, "In the Nation's Service? Woodrow Wilson Revisited," Sunday, April 3, 2016, at the school in Princeton, N.J. As Princeton University officials weigh whether to remove alumnus and former President Woodrow Wilson's name from its public policy school, the college is launching an exhibit meant to more fully air his legacy. The Nobel Peace Prize winner heralded as a progressive hero has also faced criticism as a racist who encouraged segregation in his administration. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Cecilia Rouse.

  • CEA Chair Cecilia Rouse said infrastructure needs an upgraded definition to better fit the times.
  • She told CBS News that jobs will be created from work on roads and bridges, along with research and development.
  • The GOP says Biden’s infrastructure plan focuses on too many things besides physical infrastructure.
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Amidst partisan disagreements on what the word “infrastructure” encompasses, the chair of President Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors, Cecilia Rouse, said on Saturday that the term itself could use an upgrade.

In an interview with CBS News, Rouse discussed how Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan unveiled last week will help boost the economy and add millions of good-paying jobs. The plan includes not only funding for roads and bridges, but also $174 billion for electric vehicles, $100 billion for broadband, and additional investments that address innovation, climate change, and more.

Rouse said these kinds of investments are just what the country needs right now.

“I think it’s important that we upgrade our definition of infrastructure,” Rouse said. “One that meets the needs of a 21st-century economy. And that means we need to be funding and incentivizing those structures that allow us to maximize our economic activity.”

Funding electric vehicles is important because of the urgency of climate change, Rouse said, and the cost of inaction on the climate later is greater than the cost of acting on climate change now.

Rouse’s arguments echo the White House fact sheet released on Wednesday ahead of Biden’s unveiling of the plan. It argued that, just as the 1936 Rural Electrification Act involved a federal investment in bringing electricity to nearly every home in the US, it’s time to do the same for broadband internet and electric vehicles.

Biden said on Friday that the plan would create 19 million jobs, citing an estimate from Moody’s Analytics. Rouse said most of those jobs will be coming from “traditional infrastructure,” meaning those who will build the roads and bridges, but they will also come from research and development, which received $180 billion in the plan.

Since even before Biden officially introduced his infrastructure plan, Republican lawmakers have criticized it for doing too much and focusing on things they consider physical infrastructure, namely roads and bridges.

For example, after releasing a statement last week calling the plan “a major missed opportunity,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the plan will get zero GOP votes in the Senate because it’s a “Trojan horse” for liberal priorities. He also opposes the proposed $3.5 trillion in tax hikes to fund the plan.

And on Thursday, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota voiced her opposition to plan, saying that it funds things that don’t qualify as infrastructure, naming housing and pipes as two examples. This sparked a round of criticism online and from left-leaning media figures, who argued that pipes are a core component of any country’s infrastructure.

As Insider previously reported, Republicans and Democrats’ definitions of infrastructure may differ in part because of regional political polarization, as Democrats tend to live in cities and dense suburbs, which Biden’s plan focuses on closely. But even so, a Morning Consult/Politico poll showed that many Republican voters support these aspects of Biden’s plan, such as low-income housing.

“I don’t think you’ll find a Republican today in the House or Senate – maybe I’m wrong, gentlemen – who doesn’t think we have to improve our infrastructure,” Biden said in his speech unveiling the plan on Wednesday. “They know China and other countries are eating our lunch. So there’s no reason why it can’t be bipartisan again. The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future.”

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Kristi Noem’s statement on pipes not being infrastructure sums up her party’s confused reaction to Biden’s plan

Kristi Noem at CPAC
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

  • South Dakota’s Republican Gov. Kristi Noem told Fox News pipes and housing don’t count as infrastructure.
  • Her comments sum up the GOP’s messaging that infrastructure only means roads and bridges.
  • Biden’s plan argues for a broad rethink of what constitutes infrastructure, and the GOP doesn’t want that.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden unveiled the first part of his $4 trillion infrastructure package on Wednesday, and almost immediately a host of Republican lawmakers criticized the bill for allocating funds to measures not specifically related to physical infrastructure, such as climate change and research initiatives.

South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem was one of them, but she offered an unorthodox definition of physical infrastructure: one that doesn’t include pipes.

In an interview on Thursday, Noem discussed the president’s infrastructure bill with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, and as the interview progressed, she elaborated on her definition of infrastructure, saying housing doesn’t qualify either.

“I was shocked by how much doesn’t go into infrastructure,” Noem said. “It goes into research and development, it goes into housing and pipes and different initiatives, green energy, and it’s not really an honest conversation that we’re having about what this proposal is.”

Shortly after the interview aired, critics on Twitter highlighted the “pipes” comment in particular, and left-leaning media figures were especially critical. For instance, MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan said Noem had “revealed she doesn’t know what infrastructure is.”

While Noem’s criticism of the bill was likely the most striking on the Republican side, her party has been unified in trying to label the bill as a Democratic “Trojan Horse,” sneaking non-infrastructure things into an infrastructure plan.

In a statement on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the “Trojan Horse” comparison and said that while Biden could have drafted a “serious, targeted infrastructure plan” that could have received bipartisan support, “the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration.” The next day, McConnell said the the bill will not get any Republican support, at least not in the Senate.

Both McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have trotted out a key statistic to make this point: 6%, as in, less than 6% of Biden’s proposal is dedicated to roads and bridges.

The truth is that things in the plan outside of that 6% are plausibly related to infrastructure, just not a 20th-century understanding of it. McConnell’s statement highlights that Biden “would spend more money just on electric cars than on America’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined.”

But the White House fact sheet released on Wednesday ahead of Biden’s unveiling of the plan makes the case that it’s time to rethink infrastructure. It notes that the 1936 Rural Electrification Act involved a federal investment in bringing electricity to nearly every home in the US, and it’s time to do the same for broadband internet and electric vehicles. Republicans are saying they don’t want to have that rethink.

Some Republican voters seem open to it, more than half of them in some cases. Insider’s Juliana Kaplan reported on Friday that Republicans and Democrats’ definitions of infrastructure may be different in large part because of regional political polarization, but that even so, a Morning Consult/Politico poll shows significant levels of support among Republican voters for funding low-income housing, among other things.

But regardless of the consistency of Republican rhetoric on Biden’s infrastructure plan, the comments serve to illustrate the likely legislative outcome: zero Republican votes for it. This multitrillion-dollar plan may end up the same as Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus, which didn’t get a single vote in the House or the Senate.

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In a potential 2024 preview, Tucker Carlson and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sparred over the NCAA and transgender athletes

Screen Shot 2021 03 23 at 9.20.44 AM
Fox News host Tucker Carlson interviews Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

  • Potential 2024 hopefuls Tucker Carlson and Kristi Noem butted heads on Fox News Monday night.
  • While the debate was ostensibly about transgender athletes, it previewed their 2024 messaging.
  • “No, that’s not right at all, Tucker,” Noem said at one point. “In, fact, you’re wrong. Completely.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An otherwise routine appearance for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Fox News Monday night quickly turned tense when host Tucker Carlson began asking if she was “caving” to the NCAA by not signing a bill on transgender women athletes.

Both Carlson and Noem have been the subject of heavy speculation that they’ll run for president in 2024, making them potential GOP primary opponents.

Insider first reported on chatter in Republican circles about a possible Carlson run back in July. Noem currently sits at number seven in Insider’s 2024 GOP primary power rankings, while Carlson is unranked, given the lack of clarity over whether he’s serious about a run, a notion he has previously described as “insane.”

The bill in question would bar trans women and girls from competing in women’s sports in South Dakota.

As Insider’s Madison Hall and Kayla Epstein previously reported, South Dakota’s bill is one of 36 similar pieces of legislation being pushed by GOP controlled legislatures across the country as the issue becomes a priority for the party.

In her Fox News hit, Noem tried to explain that signing the bill could lead to a drawn out court battle that the state would likely lose.

Carlson then cut her off and paraphrased what she was explaining.

“But wait, wait, wait – so you’re saying the NCAA threatened you, and you don’t think you can win that fight,” Carlson said. “They said if you sign this, they won’t allow girls in South Dakota to play, and you don’t think you can win in court, even though the public overwhelmingly supports you nationally, and so you’re caving to the NCAA. I think that’s what you’re saying.”

“No, that’s not right at all, Tucker,” Noem responded. “In, fact, you’re wrong. Completely. I’ve been working on this issue for years.”

Later on, Carlson described her decision as the result of when “big business intercedes, [the] NCAA, Chamber of Commerce and Amazon and tell you not to sign it, and you change your mind.”

“Well, that’s not true, Tucker,” Noem replied, appearing to grow increasingly irritated.

At another point, Carlson asked why Noem was talking about Title IX – the legal standard which prevents colleges and universities from discriminating in athletics or academics by gender – when “this is thousands of years of common sense and tradition.”

The exchange offered a possible sample of what their messaging to Republican voters could look like in a primary matchup between the two.

“Girls play girls sports. Boys play boys sports,” Carlson continued. “Why not, instead, just say, ‘Bring it on, NCAA. I’m a national figure. Go ahead and try and exclude us. I will fight you in the court of public opinion and defend principle.’ Why not just do that?”

Noem said Carlson was “preaching my sermon,” and that “I’m not interested in a participation trophy.”

“I’m not interested in picking a fight that we can’t win,” Noem continued. “I am a problem solver. I want to come to the table and I don’t want to have talking points. And I’ve been bullied for the last year by liberals, Tucker.”

The South Dakota governor then positioned herself as someone who’s interested in getting results instead of pursuing Carlson’s scorched earth strategy.

“I’m not gonna let anybody from the NCAA, from any big business – I’m not gonna even let conservatives on the right bully me,” she said. “I’m gonna solve the problem. I’m gonna make sure that we’re building strength in numbers … and make sure that we’re keeping only girls playing in girls sports.”

As Carlson kept pushing back, Noem turned the tables and began pressing the host over whether he’d read what she was talking about.

“Well did you read the bill or the style and reform message that I sent to the legislature?” Noem said.

“I did. I did. Yes, but I’m – ” Carlson said, before Noem cut him off and wrapped up her final remarks for the segment.

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Trump advisors are telling him to drop Pence for a Black or female VP in a potential 2024 run, report says

Pence Trump
Former Vice President Mike Pence and former President Donald Trump.

  • Bloomberg reported that Trump is seriously considering running for the White House again in 2024. 
  • Its sources said that advisors are pushing Trump to drop Pence as his running mate, if he runs. 
  • They reportedly want him to go with a Black or female VP pick, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump is seriously considering running for the White House again in 2024, and advisors are pushing him to drop former Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate if he does so, Bloomberg reported. 

Three sources told Bloomberg that Pence likely won’t be on the ticket should Trump run again. 

Close advisors want him to go with a Black or female vice presidential pick, sources familiar with the discussions told Bloomberg. Two advisors singled out South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, an ardent Trump defender, per Bloomberg.

Kristi Noem at CPAC
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaking at CPAC 2021.

A person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that they doubt Pence would run with Trump again, but that Pence hasn’t specified whether he’s interested or not. Trump teased a 2024 run at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

But Trump advisor Jason Miller told Bloomberg that Trump “hasn’t made any decisions regarding a potential 2024 run” and contested that any conversations were happening about picking a new running mate.

Insider has contacted Trump’s office for comment on the Bloomberg report. Bloomberg said a Pence spokesperson did not respond to its request for comment.

Trump and Pence seemed to fall out near the end of their term, when the vice president refused to get behind the Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election result.

Trump lashed out at Pence on social media for not trying to block the certification of the election results on January 6, an act that Pence had no constitutional authority to do.

The pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol that same day also said they wanted to execute Pence, according to a photographer on the scene, and were seconds away from seeing Pence and his family. A total of five people died in that riot, but experts say it could have been worse.

Following the Capitol riot, it was reported that Trump and Pence were not on speaking terms, and that Pence was livid at Trump.

But Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, downplayed the tension in an interview with CNN, saying Trump and Pence “talked several times before they departed” the White House, and that they left things “amicably.” 

Pence himself has been heavily discussed as a potential 2024 GOP candidate, but still lags in popularity to Trump. A recent Harvard-Harris poll found that 42% of Republicans wanted Trump as their 2024 nominee, compared to 18% who preferred Pence. 

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