WASHINGTON (AP) – With a call to think big, President Joe Biden is promoting his $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure plan directly to Americans, calling for public support to overcome Republicans who line up against the massive effort. which they sum up as big taxes, big government spending
Republicans in Congress are making the politically brazen bet that opposing the costly American Jobs Plan is more advantageous, charging Democrats with ownership of the radical proposal and the corporate tax hike that Biden says is necessary to pay for it. He wants investments in roads, schools, broadband and clean energy to be approved by the summer.
On Monday, Biden got a boost from an unexpected source. The Senate MP gave the green light to a strategy that would allow Democrats in the 50-50 split chamber to rely on a 51-vote threshold to promote some bills, rather than the typical 60 votes that are needed. usually. The so-called budget reconciliation rules can now be used more frequently than expected, giving Democrats a new path to bypass the Republican lockdown.
Senate Majority Leader spokesman Chuck Schumer welcomed the MP’s opinion as “an important step forward.” Spokesman Justin Goodman said no decisions have been made on the upcoming process, but “this key avenue is available to Democrats if necessary.”
Prospects for massive investment in infrastructure, once a bipartisan source of unity on Capitol Hill, have cracked and groaned under the weight of political polarization. Where Biden sees an urgency to go big, Republicans want a narrow plan that focuses on roads and bridges, and they warn that any corporate tax hike would crush economic growth.
“They know we need it,” Biden said of Republicans when he returned to Washington on Monday. “Everybody around the world is investing billions and billions of dollars in infrastructure, and we will do it here.”
The standoff almost secures a months-long job as Congress prepares to begin drafting the legislation and the White House holds the door open to work across the hall with Republicans, in the hope that continued public attention will generate support.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell clearly stated Monday that Biden’s plan is “something we are not going to do.”
Speaking to reporters in Kentucky, McConnell said Republicans could support a “much more modest” approach, and one that doesn’t depend on corporate tax increases to pay for it.
A central dividing line is Biden’s effort to pay for infrastructure by undoing Donald Trump’s tax break for corporations, a landmark achievement by the Trump White House and his partners in Congress.
The 2017 Republican Party tax bill, which all Republicans voted for, slashed the corporate rate from 35% to 21%. It was supposed to usher in a new era of American investment and job creation, but growth never came close to promised levels and the economy slipped into recession due to the pandemic.
Biden proposes raising the rate to 28% and instituting a global minimum rate to deter companies from relocating to lower tax havens. Democratic senators led by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, unveiled their own framework for international tax reform on Monday that could provide an opening to Biden’s approach.
“We urgently need reform,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, one of those involved in the effort.
Guiding Biden’s proposal through Congress remains a work in progress, particularly in the 50-50 evenly divided Senate, where Democrats hold a majority because her party’s vice president, Kamala Harris, can cast a tiebreaker vote.
But a single senator can break ranks to influence the size and shape of the package. On Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., indicated that he would prefer a 25% corporate tax rate, lower than what Biden is proposing.
Taking advantage of Democratic divisions, Republicans have shown zero interest in undoing the tax cuts they passed under Trump and instead prefer a smaller infrastructure package paid by user fees over drivers or other public-private partnerships that share the costs.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, said Sunday that a smaller infrastructure package of about $ 615 billion, or 30% of what Biden is proposing, could attract bipartisan support.
Administration officials have encouraged Republicans to speak more fully about what they don’t like and what they would do instead, on the view that a battle of ideas will only help Biden win voter support.
The president has already met twice with bipartisan groups of lawmakers in the Oval Office, and members of Biden’s cabinet leading the charge on infrastructure have also made dozens of calls to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
However, the White House has a fundamental disagreement with Republicans on the definition of infrastructure, so any reach is unlikely to yield an agreement.
“The infrastructure is not just the roads that a horse and carriage travel on,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing Monday. “Infrastructure is about broadband. It’s about replacing lead pipes so people have water. It’s about rebuilding our schools. “
That leaves Biden and congressional Republicans on a collision course, the outcome of which could define the parties and his presidency.
The Republican strategy recalls its Obama-era stance more than a decade ago, when Republicans opposed the 2009 bailout after the economic crisis, framing it as an overreach by the government that racked up debt, an argument they used in 2010 to recover. control of Congress.
But it’s not entirely certain that the Republican playbook that worked more than a decade ago will yield the same political benefits this time. Biden is confident in polls that suggest his infrastructure package is popular with voters of both parties, making it easy to circumvent any Republican lockdown on Capitol Hill.
Visiting a water treatment plant in California on Monday, Harris said access to safe water was about a broader issue of equity.
With state governor Gavin Newsom, Harris noted that families in Iowa and parts of the Midwest needed federal help to improve wells on their properties, while parts of California needed reliable access to fight wildfires.
“We must understand the equities and inequities in the distribution and access to drinking water, especially drinking water,” said Harris.
Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report.