U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is seeking to highlight the infrastructure bill that senators passed, but he’s careful to say he’s not giving up on voting rights legislation and Medicaid expansion.

“I like to put it this way: America needs a home improvement project,” the Georgia Democrat told the Atlanta Press Club on Thursday. He said the measure, which awaits House action, will “provide robust funding to Georgia to repair our aging infrastructure, to address climate change and support job growth that will move our state into the future, especially with regard to jobs.”

The speech was the first in a series of events that Warnock plans as part of “jobs tour,” with plans to travel the state during the Senate’s August recess to highlight an economic agenda.

The tour comes as Warnock faces questions from his potential 2022 Republican opponents and others about whether he agrees with how President Joe Biden’s administration has handled the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Warnock declined a chance to rate Biden’s performance on Afghanistan.

“Like most Americans and most Georgians, I think these endless wars have not serves us well,” Warnock said. “As we move forward, there will be plenty of time to talk about the process of the exit. But right now, I think we have to focus on the people who are on the ground.”

The first-term senator, who won a special election that gave Democrats control of the upper chamber, talked at length about ways Georgia would benefit from the infrastructure bill, including plans to electrify school buses that would aid the Blue Bird factory in Fort Valley, a chance to cover part of a freeway just north of downtown Atlanta and an amendment he cosponsored with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, to push for construction of Interstate 14 from Texas across the middle of Georgia.

But Warnock made clear repeatedly Thursday that he wants to keep pushing changes that would stop states from restricting voting access, as well as roll out a Medicaid plan in states including Georgia that have not expanded the state-federal health insurance plan for lower income adults.

“I feel strongly that we must work on the infrastructure of our communities, while also working to take care of infrastructure of our democracy,” Warnock said on his push for federal legislation to guarantee voting rights, which faces a steep hurdle of Republican opposition amid calls for Democrats to abolish the minority’s ability to block legislation by using the filibuster.

Warnock said he and other Democrats are working on a new voting rights proposal that will include provisions from two measures Democrats have been considering, including one named for the late Atlanta Rep. John Lewis.

“I think it’s important to have all 50 Democrats, not just on a framework, but on a bill. And our focus right now is getting the text of that written,” Warnock said.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks at the Atlanta Press Club, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks at the Atlanta Press Club, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)