September 20, 2021

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Exclusive: As Congress debates, most Americans back Biden’s trillion-dollar spending bills – USA TODAY

3 min read
  • The $1 trillion infrastructure bill backed by 63%, including 36% of Republicans.
  • The $3.5 trillion budget bill, the biggest expansion of the social safety net in generations, endorsed by 52%.
  • Voters want bipartisanship, but Democrats care more about getting things done.

The ambitious and expensive Democratic spending bills being debated on Capitol Hill have a big advantage: Most Americans support them.

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill was backed by 63% of Americans in a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll. And the $3.5 trillion budget plan, the most significant expansion of the social safety net since LBJ’s Great Society, was endorsed by 52%.

The infrastructure bill, which has passed the Senate and is scheduled to be voted on by the House late next month, was forged across partisan lines and is backed by 36% of Republicans as well as nearly all Democrats. The massive budget reconciliation measure, which so far has drawn only Democratic votes, was supported by 9 of 10 Democrats, 1 in 5 Republicans and close to half of independents.

The poll of 1,000 registered voters, taken by landline and cell phone Thursday through Tuesday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy

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That positive sentiment among voters should make it easier to gain the backing of members of Congress, despite the narrow Democratic majority in the House and the 50-50 divide in the Senate. It also could create complications for some Republicans, especially those who vote against both of them, with some constituents.

“It’s a long time coming,” said John Plaskowsky, 55, a business manager and a Republican from Suwannee, Georgia, who was among those surveyed. He supports both the “hard” infrastructure bill and the so-called “human infrastructure” bill that includes funding for education, child care, expanded Medicare benefits and clean energy. Some of that spending can do more to improve people’s lives than “a better road or a better bridge,” he said.

“We are at a point where people are in deep suffering not just from COVID but from the economic implications of the last several years,” Leif Hassell, 46, a public health administrator and a Democrat from Little Rock, Arkansas, said in a follow-up interview. “We’re at a point now where we really need to sort of put Americans back on a firm footing.”

Some of those surveyed expressed alarm about the price tag, though, especially of the bigger bill that includes the core of President Biden’s expansive domestic agenda.

“Never has anyone spent so much money in the first seven months of their presidency,” said Aubrey Schlumbrecht, 51, a home health-care nurse and a political independent from Lakewood, Colorado. Even the infrastructure bill has spending earmarked for “left-wing wish lists,” he said.

The budget blueprint is being is being considered under a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation to avoid a Senate filibuster and make it possible for the legislation to pass with only Democratic votes.

By 50%-39%, those surveyed said they wanted their representatives in Congress to work across party lines on big issues, even if it means less gets done. But most Democrats, by 51%-40%, are fine with a less bipartisan approach. By 51%-40%, they said they wanted their representatives to get things done, even if it means doing them along partisan lines.

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