Biden to propose two-pronged infrastructure package

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The next step in President Biden’s large-scale economic plan is infrastructure, and he’ll be unveiling the first piece of a two-part package on Wednesday in Pittsburgh — where he launched his 2020 presidential campaign.

The proposal pairs traditional forms of infrastructure with vital services.  White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Mr. Biden’s Pennsylvania address would focus on roads, railways and domestic manufacturing. Psaki added that Mr. Biden will turn to the second part — which includes health care, child care and education — in April.

“The president has a plan to fix the infrastructure of our country,” Psaki said. “We are currently 13th in the world. No one believes we should be there, and he has a plan to pay for it, which he will propose.”

Psaki told reporters that the administration is open to listening to members of Congress offer their proposals on how to pay for the plan, which has been reported to be as high as $3 trillion. She hinted that reforming the tax code could raise revenue to pay for the plan. 

“He, of course, believes that investing in our infrastructure, continuing to create good-paying union jobs is front and center,” Psaki added. “But he also believes that we have an opportunity to rebalance to take, to address our tax code that is out of date. And some could pay more in our country that are not currently.”

Garnering support from Republicans in Congress will be difficult, especially after Democrats, in passing the $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package, used the budget reconciliation process to circumvent the 60-vote threshold required for most Senate legislation and instead passed the bill with a simple party-line majority vote. Asked about the possibility that the White House would try to split the economic recovery package into two parts to win Republican support on infrastructure, Senate Minority Whip John Thune told reporters last week that Senate Republicans wouldn’t support that “ploy.”

“If they want to sit down with Republicans, which they should, the Republicans would work with them on an infrastructure package,” Thune said Tuesday. He added, “But if they decide to do that as a ploy to lure Republicans in to vote for the easy stuff and then do all that stuff, the controversial stuff through reconciliation, I don’t think our guys are going to take the bait on that.”

It’s not just Republicans Mr. Biden must win over. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia says  he wants to see Republican input, so that the Senate won’t have to rely on reconciliation to pass. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week that he believes the American people know infrastructure needs to be done “in a new green way” and hopes Republicans will work on the package. But Schumer added that if the parties cannot work together, Democrats would “move forward.” Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget committee, has said he is prepared to use reconciliation to move an infrastructure package through the Senate.

The use of reconciliation is vetted by the Senate parliamentarian, and Schumer’s policy aides are making the argument that a section of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 allows Democrats to use reconciliation again this fiscal year, but a Schumer aide said that the legislative strategy has not yet been finalized. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a press conference Monday that he doesn’t want to see tax increases “across the board on America.”  

“My advice to the administration is if you want to do an infrastructure bill, let’s do an infrastructure bill,” McConnell said. “Let’s don’t turn it into a massive effort to raise taxes on businesses and individuals.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pitched House members in a hearing last week on big investments in infrastructure, telling them that this is “the best chance in any of our lifetimes to make a generational investment in infrastructure.” House Republicans, however, still favor a narrower bill.

“A transportation bill, I think, needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal,” Republican Congressman Sam Graves, the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, told Buttigieg last week. “It needs to be about roads and bridges.”

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