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Biden sets off Capitol Hill scramble on spending, taxes

Biden sets off Capitol Hill scramble on spending, taxes
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President BidenJoe BidenCornyn, Sinema to introduce bill aimed at addressing border surge Harris to travel to Northern Triangle region in June Biden expected to formally recognize Armenian Genocide: report MORE’s rollout of a sweeping $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan is setting off a scramble by Democrats on Capitol Hill to get the bill across the finish line.

Passing the bill — which includes massive spending on transportation, broadband, the nation’s water supply and manufacturing — will be a months-long slog laced with potential pitfalls as Democrats lean on their razor-thin majorities in both chambers.

Unlike the recent coronavirus debate, where Congress passed a $1.9 trillion package just weeks ago, Democrats won’t be able to rally around a public health emergency to unify their members. And there are already signs that Biden and congressional leadership could face headaches from different factions in the party.

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Here are five things to watch as Congress plots its path forward.


Can the proposal get any GOP support?

If Biden can pick up GOP support, it will be a big win after going it alone on COVID-19 relief and allow him to tout the bipartisan dealmaking skills he talked up during the presidential campaign.

But so far, top Republicans are signaling they aren’t likely to support his plan, particularly if it’s all pieced together as one package.

Biden called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhen it comes to Georgia's voting law, keep politics out of business Pelosi to offer even split on 9/11-style commission to probe Capitol riot Senate GOP crafts outlines for infrastructure counter proposal MORE (Ky.) this week to discuss his proposal, the Republican senator disclosed to reporters on Wednesday.

But McConnell said he was “not likely” to support the final product, comparing it to a “Trojan horse.”

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“It's called infrastructure, but inside the Trojan horse is going to be more borrowed money and massive tax increases,” he said.

Biden’s proposal includes raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent, a level decided by Republicans in 2017, to 28 percent. Top GOP senators have warned it would be tough to get any Republicans to vote for raising taxes, even as they’ve also panned the idea of paying for a large infrastructure package through deficit spending.

If Biden could peel off just a few GOP lawmakers, it could help ease pressure on getting the eventual bill through both the House and Senate, where Democrats have narrow majorities and members with competing interests that could complicate holding the party together on infrastructure.

One idea that has been discussed is breaking the proposal into multiple pieces, and passing what could get bipartisan support as one component. From there, Democrats could use the budget reconciliation process, allowing them to avoid a GOP filibuster, for the rest of the legislation.

In a blow to hopes of garnering bipartisan support, Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHarris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After historic verdict, Chauvin led away in handcuffs How to save the Amazon rainforest MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate's bipartisan gang, criticized Biden’s proposal as including “broad policy priorities that are a far cry away from what we’ve ever defined as infrastructure.”


Can Biden satisfy progressives?

Biden’s plan falls short of what more liberal Democrats and progressive groups were hoping for, and they are already exerting pressure to try to get him to go bigger.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban Sanders, Jayapal introduce bill to make college tuition-free for many Americans MORE (D-Wash.) called Biden’s proposal a “first step” and said “more must be done on this initial framework,” including merging the infrastructure component with a forthcoming second proposal focused on health care and child care.

"We believe this package can and should be substantially larger in size and scope,” she said.

The push for one big package, instead of multiple bills, was echoed by outside groups, with the advocacy group Indivisible saying, “Congress must be bold and push for one inclusive Recovery package.”

Biden’s plan to increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent is also below the 35 percent pushed for in a proposal released last week by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package MORE (I-Vt.). The rate was 35 percent before Republicans lowered it to 21 percent in their 2017 bill.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Overnight Energy: Biden will aim to cut US emissions in half by 2030 | Oil and gas leasing pause on public lands will last at least through June Senate Democrats introduce bill to reform energy tax credits MORE (D-Ore.) said that he and Biden are “rowing in the same direction” on overhauling part of the 2017 GOP tax bill, but he added that he will “be introducing my own framework to overhaul international taxation” with Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHouse Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package Ma'Khia Bryant's TikToks go viral as alternative to body cam footage Sherrod Brown: Teenager killed in Columbus police shooting 'should be alive right now' MORE (D-Ohio) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' World passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality MORE (D-Mass.).


What will Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHouse Democrats eye passing DC statehood bill for second time Biden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan On The Money: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change | Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act | Consumer bureau rolls out rule to bolster CDC eviction ban MORE do?

If the first three months of the 117th Congress have offered any lessons it is this: If there’s a policy fight to be had on Capitol Hill, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will be in the middle of it. The debate on Biden’s infrastructure plan will be no different.

The administration appears to have put pieces of the package in place with Manchin in mind, including money for mine redemption.

In a 50-50 Senate, and if Democrats are going to go it alone, Manchin’s vote will be crucial, a fact illustrated after the recent coronavirus bill was stuck in limbo for hours as Biden and leadership tried to nail down his support.

Biden’s push to increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent exceeds Manchin’s stated preference of 25 percent. But a bigger headache could be that Manchin has indicated that he wants to see a sincere effort to make the infrastructure bill bipartisan.

He’s not the only potential hurdle for Biden and congressional leadership from their moderate flank.

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A growing number of House Democrats are threatening to withhold support unless it includes the repeal of a rule that caps state and local tax (SALT) deductions at $10,000, a provision that was enacted as part of the 2017 tax law signed by former President TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE to help offset the cost of some of the tax cuts in the GOP package that year.

Democratic Reps. Thomas Suozzi (N.Y.), Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellLawmakers launch bipartisan caucus on SALT deduction Five hurdles Democrats face to pass an infrastructure bill Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority MORE (N.J.) and Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerWhy President Biden is all-in in infrastructure On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records Lawmakers launch bipartisan caucus on SALT deduction MORE (N.J.) on Tuesday issued a joint statement vowing to oppose any efforts to change the tax code unless the earlier SALT deduction is restored.

House Democrats can only afford three defections with their razor-thin majority and still pass legislation on their own without any GOP support.


What's the timeline for taking it up?

Biden’s speech is effectively Congress’s starting gun for passing an infrastructure package, but it's still expected to take months to all come together.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Biden: US to hit 200M vaccine target on Wednesday | House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package | FDA finds multiple failures at J&J plant House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package House Democrats eye passing DC statehood bill for second time MORE (D-Calif.) reportedly told Democrats during a conference call this week that she would like to pass infrastructure legislation by July 4, though that isn’t a hard deadline. That could set up Senate floor action for late July or August.

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The House would need to pass a bill by the end of July, and the Senate the first week of August, in order to stick with their plans to take a weeks-long summer recess and leave town until mid-to-late September.

Ahead of floor action, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to take up a surface transportation reauthorization this spring and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wants to advance an infrastructure bill by the end of May.


Can Democrats avoid the filibuster for a third time?

As Democrats plot their strategy for passing Biden’s Build Back Better plan, they are mulling whether they can pass a third bill under the budget reconciliation process, which allows them to avoid the 60-vote legislative filibuster in the Senate.

Democrats were expected to only be able to pass two bills under the fast-track budget rules this year, and have already used one of those when they passed the coronavirus relief bill earlier this month. Top lawmakers had indicated that they expected the infrastructure bill to be the second.

But Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit Hillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Lawmakers reintroduce bill to invest billions to compete with China in tech MORE (D-N.Y.) is exploring whether Democrats could pass a third bill that way, with top aides making the argument to the parliamentarian that the Congressional Budget Act paves the way for such a step. Schumer hasn’t decided on a legislative strategy and he would need the parliamentarian's blessing before taking that approach.

“Schumer wants to maximize his options to allow Senate Democrats multiple pathways to advance President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda if Senate Republicans try to obstruct or water down a bipartisan agreement,” an aide said.

The procedural shuffling comes as Biden is breaking his infrastructure plan into two parts. In addition to the component he outlined on Wednesday, he’s expected to unveil a second piece this month focused on child care and health care.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Vaccination slowdown could threaten recovery New signs of progress emerge on police reform MORE told “Fox News Sunday” that there would be “two separate proposals and we'll work with the Senate and the House to see how it should move forward.”