Five takeaways on Biden’s big infrastructure package

President Biden on Wednesday outlined what he called a “bold” $2 trillion plan to make aggressive investments in repairing U.S. infrastructure and addressing climate change with the goal of spurring job creation. 

The investments would be made over eight years, and Biden’s plan relies on a hike to the corporate tax rate to 28 percent that the White House says will pay for the new investments over 15 years. 

Here are five takeaways from the announcement.  

The proposal is not bold enough for progressives

Biden’s proposal is being met with resistance from some members of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing who argue that it is not large enough, particularly to address climate change. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Tuesday that the package “needs to be way bigger,” as she noted that the $2.25 trillion plan would be spent over a much longer timetable than Biden’s rescue package. 

Meanwhile, a coalition of progressive organizations making up the Green New Deal Network are pressing Biden for bolder action to address climate change, such as the $10 trillion climate agenda backed by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and other members of the progressive caucus. The groups have organized grassroots events across the country to highlight the message that Biden must go bolder. 

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, described Biden’s plan as a good first step but said that more is needed to address climate change.   

“As an infrastructure plan, it’s a home run. As a climate policy, it’s a really significant step, and hopefully there are more steps to come,” Green said. 

A lack of Republican support means that Biden will need to keep Democrats in the House and Senate unified behind his plan in order to get it passed using budget reconciliation. That means keeping progressives happy while also addressing concerns from more moderate Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.). 

Biden found it relatively easy to keep Democrats in line to pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package earlier this year, especially after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15 could not be part of the package. 

This could be a little tougher.

GOP unlikely to offer support 

Getting GOP support for a bill paid for through tax increases was always going to be difficult for the White House, and Republicans were quick to signal their opposition to raising the corporate tax rate.

“Our nation could use a serious, targeted infrastructure plan. There would be bipartisan support for a smart proposal. Unfortunately, the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

The Biden proposal calls for paying for the legislation over a 15-year period by raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent. The proposal leaves out other ideas that had been batted around, such as a wealth tax or an increase in the capital gains tax for certain Americans.

The White House has been adamant that Biden’s proposal is a starting point and the administration will seek out members of Congress in both parties to decide how to best move forward, but it’s unclear how the president will be able to satisfy Republicans who are both opposed to tax increases and against adding to the deficit.

But Biden was unable to attract a single GOP vote for his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. 

Biden campaigned on uniting the country and his ability to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions in a deeply polarized Washington, but he’s already finding it hard to make headway on a traditionally bipartisan issue such as infrastructure.

The plan goes well beyond roads and bridges 

Biden is proposing a $620 billion investment to repair America’s aging transportation infrastructure that the White House says will fix 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges — but the scope is much larger. 

The plan puts $174 million toward boosting the electric vehicle market, setting up incentives for state and local governments to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers over the next decade. 

Biden is also proposing more than $100 billion in funding to ensure safe drinking water by eliminating all lead pipes and service lines. The plan aims to invest $100 billion in expanding broadband access to all Americans, particularly those in rural areas and other underserved communities. 

One prong of the package is designed to enhance the “care economy,” with Biden calling for $400 billion to expand access to home and community-based services for elderly people and those with disabilities.

Biden’s plan is also formulated to address racial inequities, including by proposing a $10 billion investment in research and development at historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions in the United States and $15 billion for establishing centers of excellence at these institutions to provide graduate fellowships and similar opportunities. 

Biden also satisfied gun safety advocates by including in his plan a proposed $5 billion for community violence prevention programs. 

Biden bets on big government

Some Democrats and historians have begun likening Biden’s legislative initiatives to those of former President Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal aimed to pull the country out of the Great Depression by implementing new government programs to address economic insecurity and drive private sector growth.

With a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending package under his belt, Biden is again aiming to reimagine how the government and economy interact with his $2.1 trillion infrastructure bill.

The proposal will touch on many different aspects of American life. In addition to making investments in traditional infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and broadband, the bill would also direct government money toward electric vehicles, green energy projects, the health care sector, child benefits, elderly care and developing future technologies.

Biden reportedly referenced Roosevelt in a meeting with historians last week. The current president has a lot riding on the success of his programs in transforming the government and society in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Biden makes the case for the moment 

Biden made the case for passing his sweeping infrastructure plan during an address in western Pennsylvania, arguing that passing it was a test of whether democracies can work for their people. 

He spoke with urgency and suggested that America’s future depends on his plan to reshape the economy. 

“We have to move now. Because I am convinced that if we act now, in 50 years people are going to look back and say, this was the moment that America won the future,” Biden said in an afternoon address at Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center. 

Biden made a point to focus on his blue-collar roots and talked about his support for union workers and the middle class, pointing to the need to build an economy that “rewards work, not just rewards wealth.” 

The rhetoric echoed Biden’s consistent message on the campaign trail to be a president for working Americans. 

“Wall Street didn’t build this country. You, the great middle class, built this country, and unions built the middle class. And it’s time we rebuild the middle class. We’re going to bring everybody along,” Biden said. 

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Ed Markey Infrastructure Joe Biden Joe Manchin Mitch McConnell Pennsylvania tax hikes
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