The fight over President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan is just getting started, and it’s bound to drag on far longer than the race to pass his $1.9 trillion Covid rescue law.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that Biden hopes to see Congress pass the infrastructure package by the summer. “The American Rescue Plan was an emergency package, we needed to get it done as quickly as possible to get the pandemic under control, to get relief, direct checks out to Americans,” Psaki said. “We’ve got a little bit more time here to work and have discussions with members of both parties.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday pledged to fight Biden’s proposal. "That package that they're putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side. Because I think the last thing the economy needs right now is a big, whopping tax increase," McConnell told reporters at an event in Kentucky.
McConnell also pointed to the national debt as a reason Republicans would oppose the massive spending plan. "You're either alarmed about the level of national debt and the future impact of that on our children and our grandchildren or you aren't," he said. "My view of infrastructure is we ought to build that which we can afford, and not either whack the economy with major tax increases or run up the national debt even more."
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Politico Thursday that Biden would try to work with Republicans, but he left the door open to again use the budget reconciliation process to get the package through Congress without GOP votes. “In the end – let me be clear – the president was elected to do a job and part of that job is to get this country ready to win the future. That’s what he’s going to do. We know it has bipartisan support in the country and so we’re going to try our best to get bipartisan support here in Washington,” Klain said.
Biden on Thursday named five members of his Cabinet to help sell the package to the public: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
The bottom line: Democrats are likely to take the reconciliation route again, but the White House’s summer timetable is ambitious and keeping Democrats united won’t be easy.
The package faces a “brutal slog,” as Politico puts it: “Absent a seismic political shift, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to draft a sprawling bill that can only afford to lose three Democratic votes in the House and zero in the Senate.” Democratic lawmakers will be coming up with their own demands, pushing what at times will likely be competing interests. “The first package was obviously a pandemic, an emergency. It was his first ask. It was wildly popular,” said one Democratic lawmaker told Politico. “This one, it’s different territory.”