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VP Harris, in Paris, says infrastructure and spending bills will help cut poverty

Vice President Harris, addressing the Paris Peace Forum, said world leaders must "challenge the status quo."
Vice President Harris, addressing the Paris Peace Forum, said world leaders must "challenge the status quo."

Vice President Harris, mindful of the maxim that all politics is local, touted the Biden administration's infrastructure and social safety net bills to a forum of world leaders in Paris on Thursday.

In a speech at the 2021 Paris Peace Forum largely focused on global inequality, Harris noted that Congress approved the $1 trillion infrastructure bill just before she left Washington. She said the measure will "make a historic investment" in the nation's infrastructure.

She said a separate measure now being debated by Democrats in Congress, the so-called reconciliation bill, "will support our nation's workers and families, and help us meet our climate commitment."

She said the $1.75 trillion package "is poised to pass soon." The House may vote on the legislation next week, but moderates in the Democratic caucus have been concerned that new government spending could risk spurring inflation, and have asked the White House to focus more on addressing rising costs.

Harris said that together, the two bills, keystones of the administration's agenda, "are designed to lift people out of poverty, put people to work in good jobs, and help bridge the gaps that persist in our nation. "

Harris has been in Paris on a mission in part to continue to mend a rift between the U.S. and France. The Biden administration angered the French government of President Emmanuel Macron by agreeing to provide nuclear submarine technology to Australia, undermining a deal the French had made with Canberra to sell conventionally powered submarines.

At the same time, she has been burnishing her foreign policy credentials.

In her speech, Harris asserted there had been "a dramatic rise in inequality" in the world, and that leaders "must rise to meet this moment."

"Why is it that 1% of the world now owns 45% of the world's wealth? Why is it that 1 in 4 people in our world lack access to clean drinking water at home? Why is it that 1 in 3 women in the world experience sexual or physical violence during her lifetime? Why is it that only half of the world has access to the internet? Why have we allowed so many of the world's children to go hungry when we know that we produce enough food to feed the entire world?" she asked.

Harris said leaders must agree that such "growing gaps are unacceptable and we must agree to work together to bridge them."

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NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.