Vice President Kamala Harris says she's 'disappointed' in Rittenhouse verdict, touts infrastructure in Columbus

by 24USATVNov. 20, 2021, midnight 16
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Vice President Kamala Harris visited Columbus on Friday to sell the newly-signed infrastructure deal to Ohioans as Democrats consider a separate spending plan that would fund climate efforts and social services.

Harris touted the initiatives before a crowd at Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189 after touring the facility with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. President Joe Biden signed the legislation on Monday after months of infighting among Democrats.

In an interview with USA TODAY Network Ohio, Harris said the infrastructure law will help fund apprenticeship programs and repair damaged roads like Interstates 70 and 71.

"People have to drive over potholes or roads or bridges that are in disrepair," she said. "That means you're getting a flat tire. You're getting something stuck in your tire. It's expensive to replace tires. Insurance doesn't do that. And the reality of it is that it slows down the ability of people to get to work, to get to their kids."

Ohio is projected to receive $9.2 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $483 million to repair and replace bridges over a five-year period. It will get an estimated $100 million to expand broadband access, $253 million for airports, $1.2 billion for public transportation and $1.4 billion dedicated to water infrastructure projects.

The Buckeye State can also compete for grants through programs like the Bridge Investment Act, which could help fund a $2.5 billion project to ease congestion on the Brent Spence Bridge that connects Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

Harris' visit came hours after House Democrats passed the $2 trillion spending bill for social services and climate initiatives, another key priority of the Biden administration. It also followed her 85-minute stint as acting president while Biden was under anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy.

During the trip, a jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges after he fatally shot two protesters and injuring a third during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

“I'm disappointed in the verdict, I have to tell you," Harris said. "I think it speaks for itself. But I also have spent the majority of my career focused on what we need to do to ensure that the criminal justice system is more fair and just, and we still have a lot of work to do."

Ohio Republicans were quick to cast Harris' trip as a publicity stunt that distracts from other issues.

"Vice President Harris is proving herself to be an empty suit whose list of accomplishments could be written on a grain of sand," Ohio Republican Party chairman Bob Paduchik said. "Instead of attempting to take a political victory lap on taxpayers’ dime and reclaim any semblance of credibility, she should be doing her job and fixing the unprecedented border crisis that she continues to fuel."

Republican lawmakers oppose the Democrats' reconciliation bill and contend it will aggravate existing inflation. Harris argued the spending plan would bring down the cost of living by curbing the prices of prescription drugs, housing and elder care.

Short term, she said, it's important to address problems with the supply chain by opening up ports to move more products.

"Let's deal with the fact that we've been living through and for many people suffering through two years of a pandemic," Harris said. "Our economy tanked. It's building back up, but we're still feeling the effects of it."

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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