Biden’s Infrastructure Win

On March 31st, President Joe Biden introduced his infrastructure plan, “The American Jobs Plan” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/ ).  After four months of negotiation, on August 10th the Senate passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan plan. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/08/10/senate-infrastructure-bill-what-is-in-it/)

Even though Donald Trump lobbied against passage of the bill, the final vote was 69-30.  That is, nineteen Republican Senators voted for it, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump toady Lindsey Graham. The infrastructure bill now goes to the House where it is certain to pass — eventually.

The bipartisan infrastructure plan polls well.  The Hill (https://thehill.com/opinion/opinion/565157-mellman-voters-favor-bidens-infrastructure-plan?rl=1) reported:  “[When asked] ‘do you support or oppose President Biden and a bipartisan group of Senators passing a new infrastructure plan to improve roads and bridges, expand power infrastructure, increase passenger and rail access, expand broadband access, and improve water infrastructure?’ Sixty-six percent [of respondents] supported the plan, 22 percent opposed it.”  It’s noteworthy that most poll respondents want to pay for infrastructure by raising taxes on corporations and the rich: “AP-NORC found 66 percent in favor of raising taxes on corporations to pay for these improvements and 64 percent supporting higher taxes on households making more than $400,000 a year.”

The infrastructure bill will eventually wend its way into law.  Let’s look at what’s in it:

1.Transportation Projects: (Original plan $621 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $500 Billion)  In essence the compromise plan kept the traditional infrastructure projects, including: $110 Billion for roads and bridges; $66 Billion for passenger and freight rail lines; $39 Billion for “public transit,” that is, upgrades of buses and rail cars; $25 Billion for airport modernization; $17 Billion for port upgrades; $15 Billion for electric vehicles, including $7.5 Billion for EV charging stations and $7.5 Billion for electric school buses. Etcetera.

2. “Quality of Life at Home”: (Original plan $650 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $400 billion) In essence this is the original Biden proposal less an allocation of $213B to “build, preserve, and retrofit more than 2 million affordable homes and commercial buildings.” It focuses on modernizing the electric grid, $65 Billion.  It also includes providing broadband internet access to rural and low-income communities.  In addition there is $55 Billion to upgrade America’s water system — with a focus on bad pipes.  (There is also $8 Billion to build a new western water infrastructure,) It also includes $47 Billion for “Resilience,” funds for cybersecurity and climate change mitigation. There’s $21 Billion for Remediation; that is, “funds to clean up brownfield and superfund sites, abandoned mines, and old oil and gas wells that need to be plugged.”  There’s also $11 Billion for highway safety. Etcetera.

3. Caregivers for elderly and disabled. (Original plan $400 Billion; bipartisan plan $0) Biden’s original plan would have expanded Medicaid to provide affordable, quality care for everyone who needs it.

4. Research, Development, and Manufacturing: (Original plan $480 Billion; bipartisan plan approximately $100 billion.)

Jobs: The good news is that the bipartisan infrastructure bill will create jobs: “Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, estimates growth of about 660,000 jobs could result by 2025.”

The bad news is that the funding is sketchy: “The spending is partially paid for with unused covid-19 relief dollars, unused federal unemployment aid, sales of spectrum and oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increased fees for some superfund sites and customs, and delaying a Medicare expense for a year. Some money would also come from tighter enforcement to ensure cryptocurrency investors pay taxes once they sell and realize their gains.”  Many progressives feel that the appropriate way to pay for infrastructure improvements is to increase taxes for millionaires and corporations.  Unfortunately, Republicans in general, and some Democrats, won’t support this.

Playing the bipartisanship card: President Biden lauded the bipartisan plan: “Democracy requires compromise. The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will make life better for millions of Americans, create a generation of good-paying union jobs and economic growth, and position the United States to win the 21st century, including on many of the key technologies needed to combat the climate crisis.”

Clearly, Biden relishes the idea of Congress passing a significant bipartisan piece of legislation.  Writing in a June 28th editorial (https://news.yahoo.com/biden-americans-can-be-proud-of-the-infrastructure-deal-214533346.html) Biden observed: “The deal… is a signal to ourselves, and to the world, that American democracy can work and deliver for the people.  Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted in this agreement. But that’s what it means to compromise and reach consensus — the very heart of democracy. When we negotiate in good faith, and come together to get big things done, we begin to break the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place and prevented us from solving the real problems Americans face.”

Nonetheless, Biden hasn’t given up on the other components of his original infrastructure proposal.  In his editorial,  Biden noted: “I will continue working with Congress to pass the remainder of my economic and clean energy agenda. We have an urgent need to invest in housing, clean energy deployment and the care economy. And we need to make equally critical investments in our human infrastructure: in childcare and paid leave, universal pre-K and free community college, and tax cuts for working families with children. They are inextricably intertwined with physical infrastructure.”

Next Steps: On August 11, the Senate narrowly approved Biden’s $3.5 trillion framework for improving health care, family services, and environmental programs.  In These Times noted (https://inthesetimes.com/article/infrastructure-reconciliation-senate-bernie-sanders-biden-deficit-climate-filibuster? ): “For Medicare, there is an expansion of benefits to cover dental, vision and hearing, and a reduction of the minimum age of eligibility, along with a lowering of prescription drug prices. The new expanded Child Tax Credit is extended beyond the current year. If the bill is passed in its current form, Americans will finally have access to at least some paid family and medical leave, child care, as well as two free years of community college and universal Pre‑K. The government will make massive investments in affordable housing, as well as a Civilian Climate Corps.”

Now the action moves to the House of Representatives which will return early from recess — on August 23rd: “to vote on the fiscal blueprint, which contemplates disbursing the $3.5 trillion over the next decade. Final congressional approval, which seems certain, would protect a subsequent bill actually enacting the outline’s detailed spending and tax changes from a Republican filibuster in the 50-50 Senate, delays that would otherwise kill it.” (https://www.npr.org/2021/08/11/1026635503/senate-passes-3-5t-budget)

BB prediction: The bipartisan infrastructure plan will pass this summer.  The remainder of Biden “Jobs Plan” will pass in the fourth quarter by means of reconciliation.