Bipartisan infrastructure deal but key Republicans are not on board

File photo of U.S. President Joe Biden.  

U.S. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan appeared to be closer to fruition as a bipartisan group of Senators , on Thursday, reached an agreement that would cost $1.2 trillion over eight years, including more than half a trillion dollars in transport and infrastructure spending. Mr Biden has asked the U.S. Congress for about $ 4 trillion in infrastructure and social spending in the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.

Thursday’s agreement, which covers only a fraction of the $ 4 trillion, is tied to – according to the President and several top Democrats – budget resolutions being passed to cover the social spending priorities. This could put the bill in jeopardy as key Republicans have expressed opposition to the linking.

“We have a deal,” Mr. Biden told reporters outside the White House on Thursday, as he stood with a bipartisan group of ten Senators behind him.

The bill will invest a total of $ 579 billion in infrastructure – including some $312 billion in transport. This will include roads, bridges, public transit, railways, ports, waterways and airports. It will also include $ 15 billion for electric buses and transit and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure to meet Mr Biden’s goal of 500,000 EV chargers across the country. The remaining approximately $266 billion will be spent on water infrastructure, broadband, resilience and environmental remediation.

The financing of this infrastructure had become a bone of contention – with Mr. Biden wanting to stick to a campaign promise of not increasing taxes for anyone making less than $ 400,000 per year. Republicans had backed a plan to index a tax on petrol to inflation, something several Democrats opposed.

Increasing the tax on petrol would result in a higher tax for those earning less than $400,000 per year and was therefore not an option , White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had said on Monday.

Democrats have been split broadly along moderate and progressive lines around the infrastructure bill. Those on the left flank of the party have been keen to see social spending ( “human infrastructure”) , not part of the infrastructure bill, accounted for elsewhere. In the evenly split Senate, Democrats intend to use a process called budget reconciliation to fund these priorities . Resolutions passed via the reconciliation route require only 51 of 100 Senators to pass and can therefore make it through the Senate without Republican support.

Mr. Biden, who delivered remarks on the bill on Thursday afternoon, a while after his meeting with the bipartisan group, said that while the Democratic party was “divided”, it was “rational” and that the party would not vote against a “good” bill. However, he said that the budget (reconciliation) resolutions would also have to be passed for him to sign the infrastructure bill into law.

“So, what I expect – I expect that in the coming months this summer, before the fiscal year is over [ September 30] , that we will have voted on this bill, the infrastructure bill, as well as voted on the budget resolution," Mr. Biden said.

"But if only one comes to me – if this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she would hold the bipartisan deal in the House until the Senate passes the budget resolution, a move Mr. Biden got behind.

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said Mr. Biden’s threat of vetoing the bill unless the budget measures were passed would be a “deal breaker “ for him.

"Less than two hours after publicly commending our colleagues and actually endorsing the bipartisan agreement, the President took the extraordinary step of threatening to veto it," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in the Senate.

"It was a tale of two press conferences,” he said. “It almost makes your head spin," he said.

Also on Thursday, three top lawmakers involved in negotiating a police reform bill announced that they had reached an agreement, details of which are awaited.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 2:51:08 AM |

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