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Biden unsure of mask mandate as he sells infrastructure in New Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH, NH — President Biden hit the Granite State to pump his $1.2 trillion investment in infrastructure, but lifting the mask mandate and re-election maneuvering were also on the agenda.

“I don’t know yet, I’ll have to talk to my CDC,” Biden said Tuesday when asked by the Herald if he will appeal a judge’s ruling dropping the mandate. He joined state and local leaders in Portsmouth Tuesday for a victory tour and celebration of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which he signed in November.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki has already said lifting the mask mandate was “disappointing” and that the Biden administration will need to review its legal options before responding.

That was Monday. While that review is in process — and pending a decision by Biden — the mask mandate has been lifted for airlines and other modes of public transportation. The MBTA announced Tuesday it would lift its mask mandate for trains and buses in concert with the federal government.

Biden’s statement on the mandate came after his remarks and during his second visit to New Hampshire in six months. The president visited Woodstock in November just after he signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

He’s also eyeing a re-election campaign — with multiple reports stating he just told former President Barack Obama that he is planning to run in 2024 — with New Hampshire still holding tight to its first-in-the-nation primary status.

Beneath the leaking, rusted roof of the Portsmouth Port Authority, as protesters outside chanted “Let’s go Brandon,” Biden said that the historic $1.2 trillion investment in infrastructure changes the future of ports like Portsmouth.

“This port is open for business and will be for a long time,” Biden said.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, officially the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, includes over $500 billion for roads and bridges, $72 billion for clean water, $65 billion for broadband access, and over $100 billion for rail, airport and seaport improvements.

The Granite State, where Biden was praised Wednesday by US Sen. Maggie Hassan and US Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, is set to receive nearly $1.6 billion for road and bridge repairs and an additional $126 million over the next five years for public transportation improvements, according to Biden.

US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was not in attendance.

This year alone, Biden said, New Hampshire will receive $45 billion to help repair roads and bridges and another $2.3 billion for improvements to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Despite the investment, Biden acknowledged that many, especially in the Granite State, are still struggling in a harsh economic reality. Biden said he understands the effects of inflation on working families, noting that the price of gas and the cost of eggs hit them especially hard.

Biden said the fault for inflation lay with the pandemic, which caused supply chain shortages, and with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine has rocked world energy markets.

Still, Biden said that the country will overcome these difficult times as it has others.

“We’re the only country in the world that comes out of every crisis that we face stronger than we’ve been,” he said.

Biden was also asked if he would be visiting Kyiv, to which he responded that he has been to Ukraine many times.

“More than any other president,” he said.

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