Amid growing Republican opposition to his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, President Biden is sending five administration officials this week to sell a plan that the administration says will not only rebuild roads and bridges but also reverse longstanding racial disparities.
Biden hopes the five secretaries can build support both in Congress and across the country for the first part of a two-part plan to rebuild the U.S. economy. The officials – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm and Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh – will work to build the bipartisan support Biden has said he seeks for the package.
Also this same Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris will highlight the benefits of the American Jobs Plan by travelling to California to meet with state leaders and a small businessman in Oakland.
But the PR campaign comes at a time when Republicans appear to be coalescing around a message of their own: Biden’s plan is actually a giant welfare initiative and tax increase masquerading as infrastructure.
WHAT DOES BIDEN’S INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN INCLUDE?
1. Transportation infrastructure: $621 billion
The plan would make a massive investment in America’s roads, railroads and bridges, with a focus on clean energy.
- Electric vehicles, including a network of 500,000 electric vehicle stations: $174 billion.
- Modernize bridges, highways, roads, and major streets most in need of repair: $115 billion
- Modernize public transportation: double federal funding for public transportation: $85 billion
- Fixing Amtrak’s backlog, upgrading existing routes and expanding: $80 billion
- “Infrastructure resilience” to withstand climate-related disasters: $50 billion
- Miscellaneous projects: $25 billion
- Improve airports: $25 billion
- Improve road safety: $20 billion
- Connecting neighborhoods historically isolated by investments: $20 billion
- Inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry and ferries: $17 billion
2. Quality of life for buildings and homes: $650 billion.
The bulk of the plan focuses on U.S. homes, school buildings, groundwater infrastructure and broadband expansion.
- Rehabilitate more than 2 million homes and commercial properties: $213 billion
- Water infrastructure: $45 billion to eliminate all lead pipes and $56 billion to modernize U.S. drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems: $111 billion
- Improve the electric grid: $100 billion.
- Improve and build public schools: $100 billion
- Expanding high-speed broadband: $100 billion
- Public housing projects: $40 billion
- Veterans hospitals and clinics: $18 billion
- Improve child care centers in high-need areas: $25 billion
- Plug orphaned oil and gas wells and clean up abandoned mines: $16 billion
- Community college infrastructure: $12 billion
- New workers on public lands and waters: $10 billion
- Modernization of federal buildings: $10 billion
3. Caregivers for seniors and people with disabilities.
Biden wants to inject $400 billion to improve access to quality, affordable home or community-based care for seniors and people with disabilities. He would expand a Medicaid program to make more services available and eliminate a backlog that prevents thousands from receiving care.
Elderly and Disabled Caregivers: $400 billion
4. Research, development and manufacturing.
“We’ve gone backwards,” Biden said of U.S. investment in research and technology. “The rest of the world is catching up, and catching up fast. We can’t allow this to continue.”
- Domestic manufacturing supporting rural manufacturing and clean energy: $52 billion
- New office to track domestic industrial capacity: $50 billion
- National Science Foundation for new technologies: $50 billion
- U.S. workforce development infrastructure and worker protections: $48 billion
- Supporting clean energy manufacturing: $46 billion
- Dislocated worker program: $40 billion
- Improving laboratory research infrastructure: $40 billion
- Technology to address climate crisis: $35 billion
- R&D programs for small businesses: $31 billion
- Prevention of future pandemics: $30 billion
- Others: $28 billion
- 10 regional innovation centers: $20 billion
- R&D on HBCUs: $10 billion
This is broadly what the Infrastructure plan Joe Biden wants to move forward proposes.
On Sunday, top Senate Republicans said the proposal was far from a serious attempt to work together and previewed the arguments they will deploy in the coming weeks in an attempt to undermine its popular support.
“If the president wants a bipartisan plan, how can he try to get something passed that each … that repeals a bill that every single Republican in the Senate voted for?” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to Biden’s proposal to reverse some of Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts to pay for the infrastructure bill.
“To me, I don’t see the bipartisan gesture there,” he added.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said he had proposed a smaller package to the White House, about $600 billion, more focused on traditional infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, airports and ports, and funded with user fees and other revenue sources that would not require raising taxes on businesses. While Biden’s plan includes hundreds of billions of dollars for those projects, there are also hundreds of billions in spending for things like home care. Republicans argue that’s not infrastructure.
“My advice to the White House has been, take that bipartisan victory, do it in a more traditional infrastructure way, and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in Congress and the country, you can certainly do that,” Mr. Blunt said on “Fox News Sunday.”
It would take at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and pass the infrastructure bill under normal procedures, although Democrats have not ruled out using a parliamentary budget tool known as reconciliation to circumvent the filibuster and pass the package with only Democratic votes.
To turn the tables, Biden officials will hope to stay more on-message than when Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris travelled the country last month to highlight the benefits of their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Instead of being able to focus on the stimulus bill, Biden and Harris faced questions about how to handle the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans, mass shootings and the increase in underage border crossings.
“The simple fact is that victory laps are always shortened or subject to serious detours, and that’s what happened to Joe Biden,” said Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary in the George W. Bush administration.