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President Joe Biden is coming to Portland to tout infrastructure spending, raise money for Democrats

President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with military leaders in the Cabinet Room the White House on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Washington.
Evan Vucci
President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with military leaders in the Cabinet Room the White House on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Washington.

President Joe Biden will visit Portland for the first time during his presidency on Thursday in a brief stop aimed at helping his party’s chances in this year’s elections.

In public remarks at Portland International Airport, Biden is expected to continue selling voters on the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package he signed into law in November. Democrats are pushing the bill as a signature achievement, at a time they’ve struggled to move other priorities past a tightly divided Senate.

Biden will also appear at a fundraiser for Democrats at the Portland Yacht Club on the Columbia River. As Willamette Week first reported, the fundraiser for the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund offered varying levels of access to Biden, with tickets ranging from $500 to $36,500. All tickets were sold out as of Wednesday afternoon.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday Biden planned to speak at PDX about investments like an earthquake-resistant runway and improvements that “help lower costs on everyday items by ensuring goods can move faster and more efficiently.”

The president will be joined at the airport by U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Gov. Kate Brown, and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, Psaki said. The appearance could be a political gift to Schrader, a centrist who faces a competitive primary challenge from the left this year in a newly redrawn congressional district.

Whether Biden plans to make any other stops in Portland is unclear. A spokesman for the city’s police bureau said Wednesday police would not offer specific information about expected traffic impacts for security reasons, but might tweet out “general information.”

The president is midway through a bicoastal mini-tour to tout investments made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed last year. On Tuesday, he visited Portsmouth, N.H., praising future spending on a local port and other projects, and making sure to credit the state’s congressional Democrats with helping pass the bill.

“The last fella who had this job kept talking about ‘infrastructure week’ for four years,” Biden said at the event, referring to former President Donald Trump. “We have infrastructure decade.”

If Biden’s Thursday remarks follow that script, he is likely to highlight hisadministration’s talking points detailing nearly 400 bridges and 1,300 miles of highway in Oregon considered to be in poor condition and bemoaning longer commute times. The president could also touch on one of the region’s highest-profile infrastructure priorities: a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River.

Oregon transportation officials have said the infrastructure bill will send an extra $1.2 billion to the state over five years. Roughly a third of that money came in the form of flexible funds, and in late March the Oregon Transportation Commission voted on a plan to spend that money. The plan includes $50 million for highway projects, $80 million for safety enhancements on main streets and routes to school, $75 million for maintenance projects and $40 million to bolster the Oregon Department of Transportation’s budget, among other things.

Biden was initially scheduled to attend a Democratic fundraiser in Southwest Portland following his remarks, at the Dunthorpe home of Win McCormack, owner of The New Republic. That event was relocated due to concerns about capacity, Willamette Weekfirst reported.

While Thursday marks Biden’s first visit to Portland since he became president, he’s campaigned in the city before. In 2019, McCormack played host to Biden when the candidate was mounting a bid for president.

And in 2014, Biden came to town to campaign for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s re-election, making a memorable stop at Salt & Straw, an artisanal ice cream shop in the city’s Alberta Arts District.

Thursday’s presidential ice cream itinerary, if one exists, had not been released as of Wednesday afternoon.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Dirk VanderHart covers Oregon politics and government for KLCC. Before barging onto the radio in 2018, he spent more than a decade as a newspaper reporter—much of that time reporting on city government for the Portland Mercury. He’s also had stints covering chicanery in Southwest Missouri, the wilds of Ohio in Ohio, and all things Texas on Capitol Hill.