Former Vice President Joe Biden has been actively meeting with his closest advisors about his preferred economic policies, including crafting an infrastructure reform package that could be part of his 2020 campaign if he decides to run for president, CNBC has learned.
An emphasis on infrastructure would give Biden an opportunity to directly challenge Donald Trump on a key aspect of the president's "Make America Great Again" agenda. Trump ran on improving the nation's roads, bridges and tunnels, but those policies have yet to take shape as the administration's $1 trillion infrastructure plan failed to gain traction.
Some of Biden's allies have suggested to him that he should make this a personal issue for voters if he enters the Democratic primary race, according to people directly involved with the matter. Biden, according to those familiar with the conversations, has appeared open to the idea of having infrastructure be one of the pillars of his campaign if he were to run.
"We would approach this community by community. If you talk to somebody about the water in Flint, Michigan, or a bridge in Erie, Pennsylvania, you can personalize it," said one of the people who has spoken to Biden about infrastructure. "This is going to be a very important plank in what Joe's going to be advocating," this person added.
The 76-year-old Biden has said in the past that the country needs to increase its infrastructure spending.
"Build, build, build, build. ... We built the transcontinental railroad," Biden said at an event in 2014 hosted by CG/LA Infrastructure. "[We] built a thing called the Erie Canal. ... Ladies and gentlemen, we always have to build. That's who we are."
Biden has been asking his team to keep an eye what's being proposed by other 2020 contenders and to take note if they are discussing how to go about paying for some of their ideas.
"He wants to be kept apprised with all these policy developments and one of these things that he cares about is their decision on how we are going to pay for it," a Biden consultant told CNBC, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
This person would not explain which specific ideas they're tracking but cited the "eye popping" estimated price of the sweeping Green New Deal environmental policy plan, proposed by freshman liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A study produced by the conservative think tank the American Action Forum showed that the climate change proposal could cost between $51 trillion to $93 trillion over 10 years. A Medicare-for-all plan, which has been championed by 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and others, has been estimated to cost $32 trillion to $33 trillion.
Presidential candidates who have come out in favor of a Green New Deal include Sanders and fellow Sens. Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar.
Biden and his team privately have also gone through other various positions that the former vice president has supported in the past, including cutting taxes for the middle class and bettering income inequality, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. These people say such ideas have not been crafted into an official 2020 platform, but they are under consideration to be part of his agenda if he were to run for president.
A spokesman for Biden declined to comment.
As for an announcement timeline, Biden continues to lean toward a run for president but has not made a final decision. He has publicly confirmed to be in the "final stages" on deciding his next steps. CNBC reported last month that Biden has been actively talking with top party donors about potentially entering the growing 2020 primary. He's also been speaking with social media experts for guidance on how best to appeal to young voters through a variety of online platforms.