SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
President Biden concluded a big week of his still-early presidency at a spot he knows well, an Amtrak station. Against that backdrop, of course he talked about trains. He was celebrating half a century of Amtrak service. He reminisced about his thousands of train trips, but he was also there to sell his ambitious spending and infrastructure plans. Capping off a hundred days in office, the president is pushing for trillions in new government spending that would fundamentally reshape the economy and help cut down on climate-changing emissions.
NPR's White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez was traveling with the president. Franco, thanks so much for being with us.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Scott.
SIMON: Why was he at the Amtrak station? He has a limo now.
ORDOÑEZ: (Laughter) You know, he's out there making the case for these huge spending programs, you know - he - that he talked about in his speech Wednesday to Congress. He went to Philadelphia yesterday to mark Amtrak's 50th anniversary. And, of course, as you know, Biden is probably Amtrak's most famous rider. He traveled by train to Washington from his home in Wilmington pretty much every day when he was a senator. And he used the train yesterday almost as a metaphor to explain why spending on infrastructure is important.
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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It has been part of my life. I've been riding an Amtrak for almost as long as there's been an Amtrak. I've come to see that Amtrak doesn't just carry us from one place to another. It opens up enormous possibilities. And especially now, it makes it possible to build an economy of the future and one that we need.
ORDOÑEZ: But the reality, Scott, is he's going to have a tough time getting Congress to agree to these proposals. So he's taken the time to go out there and talk to Americans and build support and try to put pressure on those in Washington.
SIMON: Infrastructure's just one part of the plan that he laid out in his speech to Congress this week. How likely is that legislation to actually come together?
ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, he was talking yesterday about his proposed $2 trillion plan for infrastructure and jobs. And this week, he added another $1.8 trillion in spending and tax cuts for what he's calling the American Families Plan. This includes universal pre-K, child care subsidies, paid leave and two years of free community college. You know, he's proposing to pay for all this with tax hikes on big corporations and the most wealthy Americans.
The ideas - you know, they poll well. But Republican lawmakers are not comfortable with the idea of expanding government, raising taxes and redistributing wealth. Top Republicans like Mitch McConnell have said Biden has pulled a bait-and-switch, campaigning like a moderate who wants bipartisan deals but then pushing big liberal packages.
SIMON: What do you think President Biden's next 100 days are going to look like?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, I can tell you that he's going to meet with lawmakers to talk about his ideas. You know, he says he's willing to negotiate. And there are signs of that already happening. We expect he'll meet this coming week with a group of Republicans who are open to a smaller infrastructure deal. On Monday, Biden's going to Yorktown, Va., to talk about his ideas for investing in education.
But next week, he's also going to talk about the next phase in the fight on COVID-19. He's going to give a speech on this Tuesday. And he took the step yesterday of banning most travel from India because of the surge in coronavirus cases. So the pandemic, of course, is still really a present problem as he looks toward rebuilding for the future.
SIMON: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thanks so much, Franco.
ORDOÑEZ: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.