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Biden signs $1.2T infrastructure bill; plan will be led by former Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Biden signing executive orders (January 20, 2021)
Adam Schultz
By The White House - P20210120AS-6164, Public Domain,
Biden signing executive orders (January 20, 2021)

Hours before signing his landmark infrastructure bill into law, President Joe Biden announced that former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will lead a White House task force to oversee the $1.2 trillion spending plan.

The announcement makes Landrieu one of a handful of Louisiana figures with a significant role in the Biden administration and in crafting the legislation.

During a bill signing ceremony Monday afternoon, Biden said Landrieu will have “full access to every tool the federal government has” to ensure the money is spent efficiently.

“We have the high obligation, the responsibility, to make sure this money is used wisely and used well,” Biden said.

Landrieu will lead the oversight panel, which includes Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Energy Secretary Gina Raimondo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja.

Mitch Landrieu
CC-BY-2.0: Derek Bridges
Mitch Landrieu

“I am thankful to the President and honored to be tasked with coordinating the largest infrastructure investment in generations,” Landrieu said in a joint statement with the White House. “Our work will require strong partnerships across the government and with state and local leaders, business and labor to create good-paying jobs and rebuild America for the middle class. We will also ensure these major investments achieve the President’s goals of combating climate change and advancing equity.”

The legislation is the biggest federal investment in infrastructure in a generation and includes hundreds of billions of dollars to improve roads, bridges, water systems and public transit systems.

“My message to the American people is this: America is moving again and your life is going to change for the better,” Biden said as he signed the bill into law Monday.

Over the next five years, Louisiana is set to receive $5.8 billion of the roughly $550 billion the legislation will direct to state infrastructure projects. The state is well positioned to receive additional federal funds dedicated to improve water infrastructure, mitigate extreme weather and provide broadband internet access to rural communities because of the prominent role Louisianans in the administration and in Congress played in the negotiations.

Former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans has served as a senior aide to Biden since January 2020, and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) is one of several moderate Republican Senators who negotiated with the White House on the final language of the bill.

Cassidy also praised Biden’s selection of Landrieu as the bill coordinator.

“Mitch Landrieu knows firsthand the devastation Hurricane Katrina caused on the Gulf Coast, and in turn, this devastation shows the importance, for Louisiana and the United States, of the investments the IIJA makes in coastal restoration, hardening the electrical grid and flood mitigation,” Cassidy said in a statement. “Having a Louisianan head this for the White House can only benefit our state.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards, who was also in Washington for the bill signing ceremony, similarly celebrated Landrieu’s selection, saying the former mayor has “unique firsthand experience” dealing with aging infrastructure and understands the way improvements can revitalize cities and towns.

“I applaud President Biden for selecting him to be the coordinator for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and look forward to working with him to address Louisiana’s many infrastructure needs head on,” Edwards said in a statement.

Landrieu served as the Mayor of New Orleans from 2010 to 2018 and is often credited with jump-starting the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina after progress lagged under his predecessor Ray Nagin.

During his time in office, the city spent tens of millions of dollars on transportation infrastructure projects and Landrieu secured $2.4 billion in federal funding for underground drainage systems and roads. Landrieu also served as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors from 2017 to 2018.

After leaving office in 2018, Landrieu founded E Pluribus Unum, a nonprofit organization focused on breaking race and class barriers in the American South.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.