On 31 March 2021, US President Joe Biden put forth his jobs and infrastructure plan estimated to cost over $3 trillion. It is predicted that the plan would create a large number of jobs through infrastructure development projects. Although infrastructure reform has always represented a common ground for cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, Republicans are generally critical of the current plan for being too broad in scope and because it would raise taxes on companies in order to cover its expenses.
1- Objecting in order to impede Biden’s agenda: Republicans’ opposition to Biden’s infrastructure plan is consistent with their goal of impeding Biden’s political agenda. They reject the infrastructure development plan on the grounds that it would raise taxes on corporations in order to fund infrastructure projects and fight climate change (Biden’s plan would increase the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%). House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has made clear that Republican opposition will rely on the argument that the Biden administration is responding to the demands of progressives, which entail wasteful spending and would ultimately lead to the collapse of the US economy.
According to some sources, Republicans are generally in favor of exhausting Democrats in negotiations over the plan, and have no intention of reaching a solution that is satisfactory to both parties. In other words, the Republicans’ position is to object without proposing any alternative. In a press interview last Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that the Republican Party will not support Biden’s plan despite being aware that infrastructure development is needed: "I’m going to fight them every step of the way, because I think this is the wrong prescription for America." McConnell does not believe that the US economy can tolerate a large tax increase at this time, as it will increase debt. Responding to McConnell’s statement, Biden said that a tax increase will help the US economy to function better and will not, as Republicans claim, slow the economy down.
2- The claim that the plan is not actually intended to develop infrastructure: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) announced his opposition to Biden’s plan on the basis that it is not about developing infrastructure, but is instead "yet another Trojan horse for the far Left’s agenda." Additionally, a number of Republicans, including Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), have tried to cast Biden’s plan as being mainly designed to raise taxes massively instead of seeking to develop, rebuild, and reform infrastructure projects such as transportation, water, electric, and telecommunications systems, as well as airports. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) has stated: "The President’s blueprint is a multi-trillion-dollar partisan shopping list of progressive priorities" which relies on "job-killing" tax increases.
3- Calls to scale down the plan to win more Republican support: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has submitted a proposal to Biden which he says would earn the support of Republican lawmakers. The proposal involves scaling down Biden’s plan by $615 billion, since only 30% of the plan pertains to traditional infrastructure. Blunt’s proposal would limit the scope of the plan to traditional infrastructure, that is, "roads, bridges, sea ports, and airports." In Biden’s plan, by contrast, infrastructure is defined more broadly, including steps to fight climate change and expand work opportunities. Blunt’s argument is that when Americans think of infrastructure development, they think of traditional infrastructure. Thus, Republicans want to limit the infrastructure plan to its traditional projects, rather than expanding these projects or spending excessively on ventures which, for instance, do not involve the repair of roads and bridges.
4- The belief that Biden is trying to hoodwink Republicans: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) thinks that the Biden administration aims to deceive Republicans when it speaks of inviting them to infrastructure talks. He views Democrats in Congress as taking a clear position without intending to negotiate the plan with their Republican colleagues, especially since Biden is considering repealing the law previously approved by Republicans which lowered the corporate tax rate. It is worth noting that Biden’s plan is opposed not only by Republicans, but also by a number of lobbyists for employers who oppose the tax increases that would fund the plan.
The position of Democrats:
1- Openness to negotiating with Republicans: Although the White House is open to negotiating with Republicans over the proposals in the plan, it has made clear that it will not be railroaded by Republican attempts to hamper negotiations simply for the sake of obstruction. The White House considers this strategy to be characteristic of Mitch McConnell’s time in the Senate. These views were expressed to Politico by White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
The Biden administration believes that its infrastructure plan enjoys the support of most Americans, including Republican voters. For this reason, President Biden sent top officials to various states to speak about how Americans would benefit if the plan were passed by Congress. Biden has also said that he is open to suggestions from Republicans about how to pay for the plan, adding that he would invite Republicans to the White House to hear from them.
2- The possibility of bipartisanship: Centrist Democrats are seeking Republican support for Biden’s infrastructure plan to reinitiate bipartisan collaboration in policymaking. This is particularly true after Democrats faced controversy and challenges in passing the aid package, as they resorted to the budget reconciliation process to override the vetoes of Senate Republicans.
Democrats believe that major investments in infrastructure projects, as proposed in Biden’s plan, will build significant momentum in the job market over the coming years, as well as benefiting the United States up to 2030 and beyond. Clearly, the Biden administration intends to seek bipartisanship among voters rather than among Democratic and Republican lawmakers and officials.
3- Resorting to budget reconciliation: Despite talk that Democrats may resort to the budget reconciliation process to pass Biden’s infrastructure plan, some believe that this would be difficult to achieve. A particular challenge would be posed by Democratic swing votes, primarily that of Sen. Joe Manchin (WV).
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is currently attempting to find out how many times the reconciliation measure can be used this fiscal year. Some see this as a strong indication that Democrats are planning to rely on this measure to override the need to reach sixty votes to pass Biden’s jobs and infrastructure plan. As a result, Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of a lack of bipartisanship in the infrastructure plan, as was the case when Democrats insisted on passing the relief package without gaining the support of a single Republican.
4- The objections of some progressive Democrats: Some Democrats in Congress oppose the plan for not doing enough to address infrastructure and deal with climate change. For instance, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said that the plan falls short of expectations. Though the Congressional Progressive Caucus described the plan as good, it said it should be expanded in size and scope.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wants the plan to include more measures to fight climate change. A number of steps are needed in order to end the reliance on fossil fuels and transition to clean energy. In a CNN interview, Sanders said, "We have to address physical and human infrastructure." On the other hand, several moderate Democrats oppose proposed changes in the tax system, including Rep. Tom Suozzi (NY), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ), and Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ).
In both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans are expected to clash fiercely over the jobs and infrastructure plan proposed by Pres. Biden. A key component of this tension is Republican insistence on depicting the plan as a huge tax increase which will ultimately contribute to the collapse of the American economy. The Republican Senate Minority Leader has vowed to impede Democrats’ attempts to pass the plan, while some Republicans indicate that they may be willing to support the plan if it were scaled down and amended in certain ways. There are indications that Democrats intend to rely on reconciliation to pass the plan as they did with the coronavirus relief bill.
Key Words: Biden, Congress, Republicans