By Andrew Duehren
WASHINGTON — President Biden‘s push to pass an infrastructure bill with bipartisan support will soon be put to the test as the White House prepares to meet with lawmakers next week and Democrats assess their options for advancing his $2.3 trillion plan.
Republicans have attacked the proposal, rejecting its proposed increases in corporate taxes. They have also criticized the breadth of the plan, which proposes spending $621 billion on transportation, along with $300 billion for domestic manufacturing, $180 billion for research and development and $400 billion for long-term care for elderly and disabled people under Medicaid, among other items.
At the same time, top Republicans have said they would be open to passing an infrastructure bill — if it was much narrower than what the White House has proposed.
“I think infrastructure could be one of the biggest bipartisan successes for this nation,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said to a local California television station this week.
With narrow majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats could move forward with an infrastructure bill without any Republican votes. But that would require obeying a number of restrictive rules to pass the bill with a simple majority in the Senate and forgoing an opportunity to notch a bipartisan victory.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Thursday that Democrats would try to work with Republicans on infrastructure, though she said she didn’t want to substantially reduce Mr. Biden‘s package.
“Always in legislation you will always listen and you will always see where you can find common ground,” she said. “But you’ve got to think big, you can’t think small when we’re talking about the greatness of America.”
In an opinion article posted on the Washington Post’s website, Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), a pivotal centrist, warned against pursuing legislation along party lines. A recent ruling from the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian potentially opened the door to Democrats’ passing more legislation along party lines through a budgetary maneuver called reconciliation, which allows bills to advance in the Senate with just 51 votes instead of the usual 60.
“Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues,” Mr. Manchin wrote. “Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.”
Mr. Biden plans to meet with lawmakers in both parties next week to discuss infrastructure, the latest in a series of meetings he has held on the subject. The White House has kept the door open to using reconciliation, while also saying it is hoping to win GOP support.
“We are going to leave it to leaders in Congress to determine the mechanisms for moving things forward, but we think there should be every opportunity to do this on a bipartisan basis,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday,
Early on, there were signs of difficulty in forging a bipartisan agreement. During remarks Wednesday, Mr. Biden said Republicans weren’t flexible enough in negotiations earlier this year on coronavirus-relief legislation, which Democrats ultimately pursued along party lines to approve a $1.9 trillion package through reconciliation. A group of 10 Republicans put together a $618 billion counteroffer.
“I would’ve been prepared to compromise,” Mr. Biden said. “They didn’t move an inch. Not an inch.”
In a statement responding to Mr. Biden, the group of 10 Republicans instead cast the blame on the White House for not reaching a bipartisan agreement on Covid-19 relief. With the Senate tied at 50-50, Democrats would need to be joined by Republicans to clear the 60-vote threshold in the chamber and approve a bill without using reconciliation.
“The administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy,” the Republicans wrote of the coronavirus relief negotiations.
Another factor in the early stages of the infrastructure debate will be lawmakers’ desire to pass a bill reauthorizing and updating federal surface transportation programs. Some Democrats expect that reauthorizing those programs won’t be possible through reconciliation, and lawmakers in the House and Senate are moving forward with infrastructure legislation distinct from Mr. Biden‘s proposal. Current authorization expires Sept. 30.
How lawmakers will proceed on surface transportation, Mr. Biden‘s $2.3 trillion plan and the coming White House proposal on antipoverty programs is still unclear, according to lawmakers and aides. Democrats could move forward with a smaller infrastructure bill before pivoting to other elements of the $2.3 trillion plan and possibly the antipoverty package.
On the proposed tax increases, Democrats are unlikely to win Republican support and will need to smooth over their own differences to pass anything into law. Mr. Manchin recently indicated he wouldn’t support the administration’s effort to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from the current 21%, instead saying he favored 25%. Other Democrats have said they would favor raising user fees or borrowing money to cover the cost of the plan.
Administration officials have indicated there is wiggle room on the proposed corporate rate.
“We can have a discussion about that,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Wednesday. “Is the rate not quite 28? Is it something, you know, lower? We want to compromise.”
Mr. Biden also said he was open to negotiation.
“I’ve come forward with the best, most rational way — in my view, the fairest way, to pay for it,” Mr. Biden said Wednesday. “But there are many other ways as well, and I’m open.”
Write to Andrew Duehren at andrew.duehren@Fintech Zoom.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 08, 2021 19:01 ET (23:01 GMT)
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