BALTIMORE — President Joe Biden made his first official visit to Baltimore since becoming chief executive Thursday, making a plea to the American public in support of his infrastructure plan during a nationally televised town hall hosted by CNN.
Biden was greeted by raucous applause from the crowd as he walked onto the stage wearing a dark suit and a wide grin. He waved at the crowd and put one hand over his eyes as he peered into the audience.
Biden’s appearance comes during a push by Democratic lawmakers in Washington to pass his legislative package, which includes efforts to boost spending on social programs, climate change mitigation and infrastructure.
The infrastructure bill is designed to improve roads, bridges, transit systems and broadband, and help fund Chesapeake Bay restoration, and the social spending package contains key elements of Biden’s agenda including expanding child care support and health care.
The total cost of the “Build Back Better” plan, originally priced at $3.5 trillion, has proved to be a sticking point during weeks of partisan haggling over the legislation. On Thursday, White House officials and key Democrats rushed to rework several pieces including trimming social services and climate change programs in an effort to pare back the legislative package to about $2 trillion.
Officials are also rethinking plans to reverse Trump-era tax cuts and instead considering new taxes on corporations and the investment income of the wealthy to finance the package. Congressional Republicans have argued corporate tax increases would cripple American businesses.
CNN hosted the event at Center Stage’s 541-seat Pearlstone Theater in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. Hours before the event, audience members waited in lines to have their identification and coronavirus vaccination cards checked.
Members of CASA, a regional advocacy group for immigrants, stood outside the theater wearing matching red T-shirts and chanting: “What do we want? Citizenship! When do we want it? Now!”
Yury Guardado, an undocumented immigrant and activist, said CASA is hoping to send a message to Biden to support a broader path to citizenship.
“He needs to keep his promise,” the 15-year-old said. “We are asking for what is ours and we are demanding for what is ours. We have been hiding for too long.”