The Country's Biggest Problems? Partisan Divide Is Huge

The Country's Biggest Problems? Partisan Divide Is Huge

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Plus - Biden's bumpy road
Monday, April 19, 2021

Biden’s Bumpy Road to an Infrastructure Bill

President Joe Biden held his second bipartisan infrastructure meeting with lawmakers on Monday, as Republicans try to craft a scaled-back counteroffer to the president’s $2.3 trillion plan and Democrats consider whether or how long they should try to work with the GOP.

Biden told reporters Monday that he was ready to discuss not just what is included in any infrastructure legislation but also how to pay for it. “I am prepared to compromise, prepared to see what we can do and what we can get together on. It's a big package, but there's a lot of needs,” he said.

The lawmakers meeting with the president were all senators or representatives who had been governors or mayors — chosen to meet, Biden said, “because they know what it's like to make things work, to make sure that you get things done and deal with infrastructure and the needs of your community.”

Behind the scenes: Monday’s meeting was just part of a broader outreach effort by the White House, as CNN’s Paul LeBlanc and Phil Mattingly report.

“For the last three weeks, Cabinet officials and senior White House aides have fanned out in a full-scale part-listening and part-sales-pitch tour on Capitol Hill, according to administration officials, with phone calls and meetings across both chambers and parties and with top staffers of key leadership and committee offices.

“Biden's legislative affairs team had made 139 calls to members and top staffers as of last week, with Cabinet secretaries holding 27 calls directly to members, including seven Republicans. Biden's policy teams have held 26 staff briefings, including nine at the member level, including one for GOP leadership, officials said.

“Administration officials are working on multiple fronts to gauge what pathways might exist with Republicans, and perhaps more crucially, where Democrats are on their policy preferences given the exceedingly narrow majorities in the House and Senate.”

At the same time, a group of 10 senators from each party is also trying to figure out what the contours of a bipartisan infrastructure package might look like — and how to pay for it, Axios’s Hans Nichols reported Sunday. And in an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) joined Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) in suggesting that a smaller, $800 billion package more focused on roads, bridges and the like could win bipartisan support. “There is a core infrastructure bill that we could pass…So let’s do it and leave the rest for another day and another fight,” Cornyn said.

Democrats eye 25% corporate tax rate, not 28%: Even as the two parties warily feel each other out, a number of Democrats are pushing the White House to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 25%, shy of the 28% Biden has proposed. Axios’s Nichols reported that Senate Democrats are likely to settle on 25%, and the president will go along. “Democrats close to the White House expect Biden will accept 25% and pocket it as a political win,” Nichols said, adding that Biden’s proposal to raise the rate U.S. multinational corporations pay on foreign earnings from 10.5% to 21% is likely to survive intact.

The bottom line: There’s a long way to go before any infrastructure legislation is ready. “The many dynamics at play are setting the stage for a lengthy and laborious path for getting the infrstructure [SIC] package to the president’s desk,” The Washington Post reports. “Unlike Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, which he signed in his seventh full week in office, there is no urgent deadline for an ambitious plan on the scale the White House wants, all but guaranteeing the legislative fight will take months.”

Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez Introduce $180 Billion Plan to Rebuild Public Housing

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced a proposal Monday to refurbish public housing throughout the U.S.

The “Green New Deal for Public Housing” would spend up to $180 billion on grants over 10 years to “retrofit, rehabilitate, and decarbonize the entire nation’s public housing stock,” Sanders said in a statement. Affecting nearly 2 million people living in the nation’s 950,000 public housing units, the plan would aim to enhance building efficiency, improve water quality and upgrade energy sources to include solar power. The bill includes provisions addressing labor standards and job training, with the goal of creating thousands of high-paying jobs in the green economy.

The bill would also repeal the Faircloth Amendment, which caps the number of public housing units at 1999 levels and severely limits the construction of new public housing.

Influencing Biden’s plan: By proposing far more than the $40 billion the White House says it wants to spend on public housing, the progressive lawmakers may be trying to shape President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. Republican opposition to including green energy plans in the infrastructure package – “Republicans are not going to partner with Democrats on the Green New Deal or on raising taxes to pay for it,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) said last month – has inspired some liberal Democrats to call for going it alone, in the hope of passing a massive bill on a partisan basis that touches on a wide variety of their priorities.

“Probably our best bet would be one bill — and it should be a large bill,” Sanders told The New York Times. “I think it’s just easier and more efficient for us to work as hard as we can in a comprehensive broad infrastructure plan, which includes human infrastructure as well as physical infrastructure.”

Deep Partisan Divide on Problems Facing the Country

Democrats and Republicans don’t agree much on what they see as the biggest problems facing the U.S., according to new poll data from Pew Research.

While more than two-thirds of Democrats and those who lean Democratic cite gun violence, health care affordability, Covid-19 and racism as serious issues, less than half of Republicans and those who lean Republican agree, with just 18% citing gun violence and 19% citing racism. Climate change and economic inequality face similar differences in opinion.

Republicans are far more concerned about illegal immigration and the federal budget deficit, the top two issues cited by more conservative adults.

Overall, 49% of poll respondents said they think the deficit is “a very big problem,” but partisan opinions on the deficit have changed substantially over the last few months. “Since last summer, Republicans and Democrats have diverged sharply in their views of whether the federal budget deficit represents a very big problem,” Pew said. “Today, 71% of Republicans say the federal budget deficit is a very big problem – 22 percentage points higher than the share saying this in June 2020. By comparison, about three-in-ten Democrats (31%) now say the deficit is a very big problem – 14 points lower than the share saying this last summer. As a result, Republicans are now 40 percentage points more likely than Democrats to say the deficit is a very big problem, a stark contrast to the lack of a substantial partisan gap in these views 10 months ago.”

Amazing Political Fact of the Day

“In 1993, the last time a president asked Congress to vote in a significant tax hike, the typical congressional district represented by a Republican was 14% richer than the typical Democratic district, according to household income data from the Census Bureau. By 2020, those districts were 13% poorer.”

– Bloomberg’s Gregory Korte in an article Monday about President Biden’s effort to raise taxes on high-income households, which now lean Democratic. “President Joe Biden is asking congressional Democrats to vote for a tax increase that will test a long-held liberal article of faith: that many wealthy Democrats won’t mind paying more in taxes if they can be convinced the money would lead to greater prosperity for everyone,” Korte says.

Chart of the Day: Major Savings

American households are poised for a massive spending spree that will boost the economy for many months to come, Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at the consulting firm RSM, wrote Monday. A big part of that increase in spending will be fueled by the remarkable increase in personal savings seen over the last year, a run-up that was driven by fears of the pandemic, worries about job loss, a sharp reduction in opportunities to spend – and by the federal government’s unprecedented pandemic relief efforts that flooded the economy with liquidity.

Rather than a problem that could potentially spark inflation, as some critics see it, Brusuelas says the savings overhang is a positive factor that will help get the economy back on its feet. “In our assessment,” Brusuelas says, “the fact that government benefits softened the blow of financial hardship plus the restoration of confidence in the government’s ability to respond to hardship will allow for a quicker recovery than prior shocks to the economy.”

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