Biden's infrastructure plan met with skepticism from some lawmakers
Washington — President Biden will unveil an ambitious infrastructure proposal on Wednesday that would spend over $2 trillion to reshape the American economy, but some members of Congress have already expressed skepticism about the plan, raising questions about whether such a bill will garner enough support to be approved in Congress.
Republicans have already balked at the price tag of the measure, which comes on the heels of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package which passed in Congress without any GOP support. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this week that he doesn't want to see tax increases "across the board on America" to pay for an infrastructure bill — and Mr. Biden's proposal would raise corporate tax rates from 21% to 28% and would renegotiate with other countries a global minimum tax on multinational corporations.
McConnell told reporters on Wednesday that Mr. Biden had called to brief him on the details of the infrastructure plan, but still said that he was unlikely to support it.
"Let's see what this infrastructure package looks like. If it's a Trojan horse for a massive tax increase put me down as highly skeptical," McConnell said.
Some congressional Democrats have also criticized Mr. Biden's infrastructure proposal, although the plan was praised on Wednesday by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"This package is about jobs, jobs, jobs: creating millions of good-paying union jobs, investing in American workers and turbocharging America's global competitiveness - all while reimagining and revitalizing our infrastructure in a transformative, resilient way. This plan charts a course for progress and opportunity for all Americans," Pelosi said in a statement, adding that "the House is already at work to advance a transformational infrastructure package."
But Democrats hold narrow majorities in the House and the Senate, meaning that Mr. Biden and congressional leadership could not afford to lose any Democratic votes.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most prominent progressives in the House, said in a tweet on Tuesday that the bill was too limited.
"This is not nearly enough. The important context here is that it's $2.25T spread out over 10 years. For context, the COVID package was $1.9T for this year *alone,* with some provisions lasting 2 years. Needs to be way bigger," Ocasio-Cortez wrote.
In a statement on Wednesday, House Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said the package is a "welcome first step" but called for something "substantially larger in size and scope," citing Mr. Biden's campaign promise to spend $2 trillion over 4 years on infrastructure.
"We believe that our country is ready for an even bolder, more comprehensive and integrated plan that demonstrates the size, scope, and speed required to aggressively slash carbon pollution and avoid climate catastrophe; create millions of good, family-sustaining, union jobs; improve Americans' health and safety; reduce racial and gender disparities; and curb income inequality by making the wealthy and large corporations finally pay their fair share in taxes," Jayapal said.
Representative Ro Khanna, a member of the Progressive Caucus, told CBS News that he would have wanted the package to be more ambitious, but said it was a "strong start."
"Obviously there are areas I would like to see go further, but it's a strong start," Khanna said.
Meanwhile, some Democrats in New York and New Jersey have insisted that they will not support any changes to the tax code unless the state and local tax (SALT) reduction is restored. In 2017, Congress passed a $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction to help pay for former President Donald Trump's massive tax overhaul.
Representatives Bill Pascrell, Josh Gottheimer and Tom Suozzi said in a statement on Tuesday that their policy is, "no SALT, no deal."
"The SALT cap doesn't just hurt our taxpayers but our communities too, which face savage cuts to vital public services if relief is not enacted. New York and New Jersey are also the largest net donors to the federal government and annually contribute more than we receive. Therefore, we will not accept any changes to the tax code that do not restore the SALT deduction and put fairness back into the system," the three said. Pascrell and Gottheimer represent New Jersey, and Suozzi's district is in New York.
Democratic leadership will also have to hold onto moderates in order for the legislation to pass. Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat and one of the key swing votes in the Senate, has said that he supports raising taxes to pay for an infrastructure bill, but instead suggested that the corporate tax rate hike should be from 21% to 25%.
However, Manchin said in an interview with "Axios on HBO" earlier this month that he would be unwilling to try to pass an infrastructure bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow the proposal to be approved without any Republican votes. Congress passed the American Rescue Plan using budget reconciliation earlier this month, and Manchin said that he believes 10 Republicans could be convinced to support a massive infrastructure bill. Most legislation requires 60 votes to advance in the Senate, and Democrats have a 50-seat majority.
"I'm not going to do it through reconciliation," Manchin said. "I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them out completely before we start trying."
Despite Manchin's insistence, it is very likely that Democrats will try to pass the bill through reconciliation, given Republican opposition to significant tax hikes and passing another large bill so soon after the American Rescue Plan.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is currently mulling the use of an obscure procedural maneuver that would allow for another budget reconciliation measure this fiscal year. Although typically budget reconciliation is used only once per fiscal year, a Schumer aide said the majority leader is asking the Senate parliamentarian whether he can revise the current budget resolution to allow for another reconciliation process to pass the infrastructure package.
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