Biden’s everything bill
What’s in the president’s $2.25 trillion “infrastructure” plan
WASHINGTON—President Joe Biden’s definition of “infrastructure” includes not only bridges, roads, and tunnels, but also paid parental leave, child care, and caregiving.
“Whatever the Left wants is infrastructure,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted on Wednesday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Biden’s proposed $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan a Trojan horse last week, arguing it would “spend more money just on electric cars than on America’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined.”
The Biden administration has brushed aside these criticisms and touted the infrastructure proposal as widely popular among Americans. A March 31 poll from Morning Consult found 54 percent of voters said they supported spending on infrastructure and paying for it with corporate tax increases. Seventy-three percent of Democrats polled supported infrastructure spending, compared with 52 percent of independents, and 32 percent of Republicans.
In a Reuters/Ipsos poll from March 31 and April 1, 79 percent supported the government upgrading transportation infrastructure. However, support fell to 45 percent of those asked whether they would support an upgrade helmed by the Biden administration.
“Americans don’t mind spending money on bridges, roads, and planes; but if the perception that it’s so much broader sinks in and [has] a lot of things that have nothing to do with infrastructure; opinions might change,” said Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute. “You don’t see a lot of concern right now about the debt and deficit. … Biden’s done pretty effective messaging, it seems to me, thus far.”
Biden’s infrastructure proposal, the details of which still have to be crafted into a bill, calls for spending $621 billion on transportation, $100 billion on electricity, $100 billion on internet, and $328 billion on housing costs, school buildings, childcare facilities, Veterans Affairs hospitals and other federal buildings. Additionally, it includes $400 billion for home care services and care workers and $590 billion for domestic manufacturing, research and development, and job training.
Progressives are cheering on the expansiveness of the plan. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., called the plan “a way of accomplishing many of the goals of the Green New Deal.”
Edward Glaeser, a Harvard University economist, told The New York Times that many of the items funded in the plan do not fall into a historical definition of infrastructure: “It does a bit of violence to the English language, doesn’t it?”
The administration proposes to pay for the plan largely by introducing a tax hike on corporations. The rate would jump from 21 to 28 percent. That would partially undo the 2017 tax cut passed during the Trump administration. It would take 15 years for these tax hikes to finance the plan, whereas spending would be spread out over eight years.
The Senate parliamentarian gave the effort a boost on Monday. Elizabeth MacDonough ruled Democrats may use budget reconciliation to avoid a filibuster, which would hold up the bill unless it got 60 votes—a virtual impossibility in the divided Senate. But that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. With the Senate evenly split between the parties, Democrats can’t afford to lose any support from their own members. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said he opposes raising the corporate tax rate above 25 percent.
“It’s more than just me. … there’s six or seven other Democrats who feel very strongly about this,” he said.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told Fox News Sunday Biden should reduce its proposal to something closer to $615 billion.
“If we’d go back and look at roads and bridges and ports and airports, and maybe even underground water systems and broadband, you’d still be talking about less than 30 percent of this entire package,” he said. “I think you can do that and with some innovative things like looking at how we’re going to deal with the electric vehicle use of the highway system, what we can do with public-private partnerships.”
In some ways, Blunt’s argument hearkens back to what Americans found persuasive following the Obama administration’s 2009 economic rescue package: that lawmakers were spending too much without regard for the skyrocketing debt. In 2010, the message that spending had gotten out of control propelled many Tea Party conservatives into office, helping the GOP take control of Congress.
“This would represent the largest tax increase since Lyndon B. Johnson,” said David Ditch, a research fellow who specializes in budget and transportation at The Heritage Foundation. “It would represent somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 in spending for every single American household, and that amount of spending I think deserves a little more scrutiny.”
Ditch acknowledged there is less energy around curbing big spending out of Washington these days: “The only way we’re going to see fiscal responsibility in Washington again is if enough of the American public makes it clear they're going to hold elected officials accountable.”
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