Biden heads to Kentucky to tout bipartisan infrastructure bill with Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell

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President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Washington.

CNN  — 

A rare scene is set to unfold in Covington, Kentucky, on Wednesday: President Joe Biden standing alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as the two men promote together a major bipartisan legislative accomplishment.

The president’s visit to McConnell’s home state to herald the implementation of the massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that McConnell and 18 other Senate Republicans voted for and that Biden signed into law in 2021 marks his first domestic trip of the new year. The trip is aimed at sending an unmistakable message as he kicks off the second half of his first term: Even in a newly divided Congress, the Biden White House still sees room for bipartisanship.

The backdrop for Biden’s visit will be the Brent Spence Bridge that connects Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington, Kentucky, and is known to be one of the busiest freight routes in the country. Officials say the structure carries far more traffic than it is meant to support.

It’s also a bridge that Biden once promised he would overhaul: “We’re going to fix that damn bridge of yours going into Kentucky,” Biden said during a CNN town hall in Cincinnati in the summer of 2021, as the infrastructure bill appeared to be on the cusp of passage.

On Wednesday, the White House announced more than $2 billion from the infrastructure law would go towards upgrading the Brent Spence bridge and other “economically significant bridges” around the country.

Biden’s trip to the Ohio-Kentucky border on Wednesday will also feature Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and former Republican Sen. Rob Portman, as well as Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

White House officials say that the show of bipartisanship is aimed at sending a clear signal that as Republicans take control of the House, Biden remains convinced that there will still be opportunities for bipartisan legislative wins.

The image of Biden spending time with Republican elected officials on Wednesday will particularly stand in stark contrast from the extraordinary drama that has been unfolding in the House of Representatives, where Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy struggled on Tuesday to lock in the votes within his own conference for the House speakership even as he offered to make major concessions to the various hardliners opposed to his bid.

“House Republicans will do what they’ll do,” one White House official said. “Biden won’t insert himself in that process.”

McConnell’s decision to appear with Biden on Wednesday also signals the GOP leader’s willingness to work alongside the president, even as many of his Republican colleagues in the House take a hardline stance against compromising with Democrats.

While White House officials regularly invite all congressional members to attend events Biden holds in their home states, Republicans frequently turn down the opportunity – making McConnell’s decision to join the president this week all the more notable.

Biden himself sought to downplay the importance of the pairing on Monday.

“We’ve been friends a long time. Everybody is talking about how significant it is. It has nothing to do about our relationship,” he said as he returned to the White House from his winter vacation in St. Croix. “It’s a giant bridge, man. It’s a lot of money. It’s important.”

A number of Cabinet officials also plan to travel later this week to promote the infrastructure law. Vice President Kamala Harris will stop in Chicago, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will visit New London, Connecticut, on Wednesday where they will each “discuss how the president’s economic plan is rebuilding our infrastructure, creating good-paying jobs – jobs that don’t require a four-year degree – and revitalizing communities left behind,” a White House official said.

Over the coming weeks, Biden is expected to reiterate his bipartisan achievements in stops around the country as the Republican majority in the House begins its work, culminating in his yearly State of the Union address. Biden’s aides have begun work on that speech and have made bipartisanship a central theme.

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