Anthony Foxx came home Thursday. And the former Charlotte mayor, and current Secretary of Transportation brought a friend. Vice President Joe Biden.
The two were here to build support for President Barack Obama’s proposal to rebuild or replace America’s transportation systems. At times, however, it seemed the two might be pitching Charlotte and North Carolina more than an infrastructure overhaul.
The music was appropriately patriotic. The venue though was a bit of a surprise. This event was held not in uptown but in NoDa, at a reception hall called the Extravaganza Depot. It neighbor was Charlotte’s Amtrak station. Trains and rails were the focus of yesterday’s speeches.
"The growing population of this country doesn’t understand really what’s needed for infrastructure for the future," Joseph Boardman, Amtrak’s CEO said in his opening remarks.
As Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was there to help us understand. "The problem is that we’re growing by 70 million people over the next 30 years." To accommodate that growth, he said, Congress needs to enact the president’s proposal dubbed 'Grow America'. "$478 billion of investment over six years in highways, bridges, transit and passenger rail."
When it was his turn to speak, Vice President Joe Biden said our infrastructure is crumbling and needs to be fixed. The president’s infrastructure plan, Biden added, should be mostly welcomed by the Republican Congress. "A lot of Republicans used to lead the way on infrastructure," The vice president told the crowd, adding, "The debate is how to pay for it."
He’s right about the debate at least. "Where will the funding for this nearly $500 billion plan come from?" asks Meghan Burris, the press secretary for U.S. Senator Thom Tillis. "Through increasing corporate taxes and placing unnecessary burdens on businesses and families, that’s not the way we need to go about doing it."
For Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx this five state tour is about trying to build some public pressure for lawmakers like Senator Tillis to change their minds. For Vice President Joe Biden, it sure seemed like something else.
He cracked jokes,
"How many more aircraft can you land at La Guardia. And who wants to land at La Guardia?"
He lamented what he calls the personalization of politics,
"Everything is about you’re immoral, or you're bad or you're stupid. It's not nearly enough about the issue."
Biden brought up income inequality,
"The middle class has been slammed. They are in worse shape than they’ve been since the 20’s, relative to the rest of the community."
All while cheering on, what he sees as the country’s bright future.
"This country is ready to get up and run. Not because of Joe Biden or Barack Obama and Joe Biden. But because of the American people."
And did you catch that name game? Associating himself with the president not once but twice in the same line? Perhaps potential 2016 presidential candidate Joe Biden hopes you did.
Even the vice president’s schedule points to this. Last week, Iowa. This week, North and South Carolina. Next week, New Hampshire. All states with early presidential primaries or caucuses.
Vice President Biden has yet to decide if he’s running. He’s said that decision will likely come this summer. But Charlotte may have just seen its first stop by 2016 presidential candidate Joe Biden. Albeit unofficially.