WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden during a Tuesday meeting with county leaders called on Congress to pass his stalled social spending package as a way to fight inflation, saying it would help with expenses families face.
“Families are getting clobbered by the cost of everyday things,” Biden told members of the National Association of Counties at a conference, which Missoula County commissioners are attending.
He stressed that his plan, Build Back Better, would help Americans who are seeing higher prices in grocery stories and high gas prices due to inflation.
“That’s what my Build Back Better plan was all about,” he said.
The massive social spending and climate plan foundered in the Senate after opposition emerged among key Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
Biden added that he was pleased that states and local governments were implementing funding from the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law and the American Rescue Plan, a relief package passed last year by Congress.
“This is only the beginning,” Biden said.
NACo is a bipartisan group that represents all 50 states — including nearly 40,000 county elected officials — and advocates for county priorities in federal policies.
The organization is hosting a week-long conference where policy issues are discussed such as broadband, agriculture, health, environment and public lands. The session on Tuesday focused on counties’ implementation of the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Biden stressed that counties should also responsibly use the funds provided by the American Rescue Plan and take advantage of the flexible spending.
He added that as a former county official — he served two years on the New Castle County Council in Delaware — he knows that a flexible way to distribute funds is important, as every local government is unique.
“We have an incredible opportunity in front of us,” he said. “We know the challenges still remain, we’re still fighting a deadly virus, we still need people to get vaccinated.”
He thanked the counties for their work in helping enforce mask policies and fighting disinformation, and for pushing for their communities to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. More than 900,000 Americans have died from the virus since 2020.
“You’ve saved lives,” Biden said.
According to the White House, Biden participated in a photo line with local officials including Cascade County Commissioner Joe Briggs.