As Biden prepares to introduce the first part of his jobs plan in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Congressional lawmakers are beginning to digest the sprawling effort to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, confront climate change, and significantly hike taxes on businesses, investors, and rich people.
Biden is expected on Wednesday to unveil a more than $2 trillion package focused primarily on physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges; major investments in housing, clean energy, and manufacturing; and a major investment in home-based care for the disabled and elderly, among other measures, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal details of the internal discussions.
Then, the White House will unveil a second plan, in several weeks, that includes an expansion in health care insurance coverage; an extension of the expanded child tax benefit; and paid family and medical leave, among other efforts aimed at families, the officials said. White House officials have not explained whether they will seek to have both efforts pass at the same time, or try to get Congress to approve one first. The combined price-tag of the plans could top $4 trillion.
The jockeying around these effort has already begun, as Biden’s allies push for inclusion of their priorities in the next major legislative effort. Centrist Democrats have said they believe the package should be targeted to win Republican votes, seeking a return to bipartisan policymaking after a contentious and partisan votes over Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan. But liberal lawmakers and some economists are pressing the administration to use Democrats’ narrow majorities in Congress to confront some of the nation’s biggest problems, such as climate change, with solutions they believe are necessary to the scale of the crises.
Congressional aides expect a bruising legislative battle that will prove significantly more difficult than the relatively quick passage of Biden’s relief plan, in which Democrats were held together in part by the need to combat the pandemic. Despite some objections, almost every Democrat in both chambers voted for Biden’s plan.
“I’m getting a little confused about how we’re going to get anything done. It’s only going to get more difficult from here on out,” said Jim Manley, who served as an aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) “There’s not only more divisions over where to go, but there’s a certain sense of spending fatigue setting in on Capitol Hill.”
On Monday, Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) unveiled a climate and infrastructure plan that called for $10 trillion in spending over the next decade. Biden’s initial campaign pledge to invest $2 trillion over four years was already inadequate to confronting climate change, and his coming proposal may be even less so, said Robert Pollin, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who helped craft the Markey-Dingell plan. Pollin said a $3 trillion investment only amounted to about 1.3 percent of America’s gross domestic product.
“That was itself skirting on the edge of being inadequate relative to the climate goals and infrastructure goals,” Pollin said of Biden’s initial plan.
Other challenges to the effort have emerged. Biden’s team is eyeing as much as $3 trillion in new tax hikes to pay for the two programs, primarily on wealthy investors, rich people, and businesses. Those have already come under heavy criticism from congressional Republicans, who say such hikes will damage America’s competitiveness and drain the nation of vital economic activity as it struggles to rebound from the pandemic.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier this month that Republicans would not support tax increases to pay for infrastructure. “I don’t think there’s going to be any enthusiasm on our side for a tax increase,” McConnell said.
However, some Democrats are already saying they will vote against Biden’s package unless it includes tax changes that Republicans also oppose. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Tuesday that he will oppose any deal that does not reverse the limitation on state and local tax deductions imposed by Republicans in their 2017 tax law. That threat could be backed up by other lawmakers in high tax states who have sought to reverse the GOP provision, although tax experts have said such a change would primarily benefit high-earners.
The White House is pressing forward despite the emerging divisions. “After all the jokes about infrastructure weeks, we’re going to have a real serious effort to get both infrastructure spending on roads and bridges and programs like broadband,” said Howard Gleckman, a tax expert at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center think tank. “I think there’s pretty broad bipartisan support is a big infrastructure plan. There is not bipartisan support for paying for it.”