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Congress gives Biden long-needed jolt of good news with infrastructure vote

With this week’s election results in New Jersey and Virginia suggesting that voters are souring on Democrats, President Joe Biden badly needed a jolt of good news. And on Friday, he finally got a little.

The US House of Representatives, controlled by his Democrats, passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to repair the nation’s airports, roads and bridges — three months after the Senate — sending the bill to Biden’s desk for signature into law.

On top of that, a sweeping $1.75 trillion social-spending and climate bill that is a centerpiece of Biden’s presidential campaign, passed a procedural hurdle in the House, though it remains unclear when it will get a final vote.

That came the same day the government reported a better-than-expected more than 500,000 jobs were added last month, suggesting the economic rebound is gathering pace.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq all hit a string of record high closes this week. But the White House has watched with concern as Biden’s approval ratings have dropped steadily amid the ongoing pandemic, higher inflation, a chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and months of bickering among Democrats in Congress over the infrastructure and social spending bills.

The alarm truly sounded this week when Republican Glenn Youngkin edged Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor of Virginia, a state that Biden won by 10 percentage points a year ago. In New Jersey, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy narrowly won reelection over Republican Jack Ciattarelli in a unexpectedly tight contest.

In both races, suburban and independent voters who were critical to Biden’s victory gravitated toward the Republicans, a warning sign ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when control of Congress will be at stake.

The White House has been eager for the infrastructure bill to clear the House since it passed the Senate in August with 19 Republicans voting along side 50 Democrats. It had been on hold in the House as progressives tied its fate to the social spending package.

Its passage comes at a propitious time for Biden. The current presidential approval tracking poll by Reuters/Ipsos shows that about 48% of US adults approve of Biden’s performance, with respondents listing the economy as their top concern.

Polls continue to suggest that Americans are uncertain whether that bill will benefit them. In a poll released by Emerson College this week, 39% of respondents thought it will have a negative impact on their lives, while 34% said it will have a positive impact.

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