White House hopes to see infrastructure bill passed by summer
President Biden hopes to see Congress pass his infrastructure and climate proposal by this summer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, setting a slightly longer timeline than his recently enacted coronavirus relief package.
Psaki told reporters at an afternoon briefing that the extra time will allow for more White House negotiations with congressional Republicans and Democrats, particularly since the legislation does not carry the same level of urgency as the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law last month.
Still, she said Biden would like to see “progress” by the end of May.
“The American Rescue Plan was an emergency package, we needed to get it done as quickly as possible to get the pandemic under control, to get relief, direct checks out to Americans,” Psaki said.
“We’ve got a little bit more time here to work and have discussions with members of both parties,” she continued. “We want to see progress by Memorial Day, we’d like to see this package passed by the summer. But I certainly expect when Congress returns that the president will be inviting members to the Oval Office.”
The timetable is nevertheless viewed as ambitious for such a large package, and it’s possible that it could take several months to get a bill through.
Biden has offered to host lawmakers from both sides of the aisle at the White House to discuss the details of his $2.25 trillion proposal, which he laid out Wednesday. The package would fund improvements to roads and bridges, expand broadband and invest in climate-friendly technologies. The measure would be paid for by increasing the corporate tax rate.
Republicans have already voiced opposition to the package, namely the proposed tax hike.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to fight the legislation and said it “is not going to get support from our side” during a news conference in Kentucky on Thursday.
“I’m going to fight them every step of the way, because I think this is the wrong prescription for America,” McConnell said.
Asked to respond to those comments, Psaki suggested there were more areas of agreement than disagreement on improving the country’s infrastructure and other provisions in Biden’s proposal.
“I think there are some more questions to be asked. Does he disagree that our nation’s infrastructure is outdated and needs repair? Does he disagree that we need to do more to put American workers back to work and to invest in industries that have growth potential over the long term? Does he disagree that one third of the country who doesn’t have broadband access should have access to broadband?” Psaki said. “There are a lot of areas where there is agreement across the political spectrum.”
“What we’re really talking about here is how to pay for it. And so what we’re looking for is proposals of alternatives,” she said.
The White House has said it would prefer to pass the proposal with bipartisan support but has not ruled out using budget reconciliation — which Democrats used to pass the coronavirus relief package — to get the bill through Congress without any GOP votes.
“I think particularly around these infrastructure issues, I do think there is strong bipartisan support. I understand controversy about the pay fors, controversy about certain specifics, but let’s work together and see if there is a way for us to deliver this,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said during an interview Thursday with Politico.
“In the end – let me be clear – the president was elected to do a job and part of that job is to get this country ready to win the future. That’s what he’s going to do. We know it has bipartisan support in the country and so we’re going to try our best to get bipartisan support here in Washington,” Klain said.
Democrats view the White House’s timeline for passing a bill as quite ambitious. Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, said the package could make its way through Congress before lawmakers leave for the August recess but said it was far from guaranteed.
“I think that’s possible. That’s really ambitious,” Kessler, a former aide to now-Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), said. “Reconciliation is a cumbersome process and the goal of one party will be to slow it down as much as possible while the other party wrestles with what’s in there.”
Biden on Thursday tapped five members of his Cabinet — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh — to help sell the wide-ranging proposal to the public over the coming weeks as he works to rally support for it among voters.
Updated at 3:49 p.m.