How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress

How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress
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Last week President BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE ended negotiations with Republicans on an infrastructure bill. The two sides remained far apart. Democrats had reduced their proposal to $1 trillion in new spending. Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBiden to return to pre-Obama water protections in first step for clean water regulations The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, would not go higher than $330 billion.

A few days later, a bipartisan group of senators (five Republicans and five Democrats) announced they had reached agreement on “a realistic compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies.” Although the group released few details, the package reportedly allocated $579 billion in new spending and $1.8 trillion over eight years. The bill would be paid for without new taxes (although gas taxes might be indexed to inflation). Emphasizing the importance of bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, the group indicated all of them were discussing the plan with respective colleagues and the White House “and remain optimistic that this can lay the groundwork to garner broad support from both parties and meet America’s infrastructure needs.”

Other GOP members of the House and Senate, however, expressed skepticism about the deal. And many Democrats are growing impatient. They are especially concerned that a compromise package would eliminate climate action initiatives — charging stations for electric vehicles, transmission lines for renewable energy, tax incentives for solar, wind, and other clean energies, retrofits for reduced energy usage in homes, and clean energy standards for corporations. They agree with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio): “At some point, if they [Republicans] won’t go where we believe the country needs to go, and where the country seems to want to go, then we take off.”

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The pathways for the Biden administration to get an infrastructure bill through Congress are narrowing. All the more so, as the summer recess for Congress approaches. Here’s what Biden should do:

He should assume that his attempts at bipartisanship have run their course because the vast majority of Republicans in the Senate and the House, led by Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) and Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyAfter police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi Capitol Police asked to arrest the maskless 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Calif.) respectively, have no intention of getting to yes. Drawing on the play book they used for Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the Economic Stimulus legislation of 2009, and Biden’s Coronavirus Relief Bill, they are negotiating to run out the clock and tempting the president to negotiate with himself, while setting a predicate for claims that Republicans support modernizing our infrastructure and are committed to bipartisanship. That’s why Sen. Capito emphasized that it was Biden who ended infrastructure discussions. Republicans are also trying to drive a wedge between moderate Democrats — Sens. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban Senate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge MORE (D-Ariz.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (D-W.Va.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (D-Mont.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power CIA watchdog to review handling of 'Havana syndrome' cases MORE (D-N.H.), and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators say they have deal on 'major issues' in infrastructure talks MORE (D-Va.) — and their more numerous progressive colleagues.

The president should challenge the Republican members of the bipartisan group — Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Alaska), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (R-Utah), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris Senate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama MORE (R-Ohio), and Bill CassidyBill CassidySenate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (R-La.) — to provide concrete details about the plan and its pay-fors. He should promise to negotiate with them when and if five additional Republican senators publicly endorse the agreement (to ensure a bill cannot be filibustered).

In the meantime, he should give Majority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE (D-N.Y.) the go-ahead to prepare infrastructure legislation that could be passed with 51 votes under the budget reconciliation process, enlist the support of the Democratic moderates, and coordinate his efforts with Speaker of the House Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.).

As he reiterates that he prefers bipartisan legislation but only if it addresses the nation’s urgently important needs, Biden should take every opportunity to emphasize that almost 70 percent of Americans support a big, bold infrastructure bill, with only 29 percent opposed. He should indicate that corporations do not now pay their fair share for essential services provided by government — and point out that raising the corporate tax to 25 percent (which Manchin supports) will still leave it significantly lower than it was between the end of World War II and 2017. He should increase his trips to cities and towns around the country, showcasing crumbling roads, bridges, mass transit and some of the 400,000 schools and childcare facilities that expose children to lead poisoning.

And he should recognize that if his infrastructure package creates jobs, stimulates economic growth, and makes energy cleaner, few Americans will know — or care — if it received bipartisan support.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of "Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century."