- Republicans criticized the White House’s $US3 ($4) trillion infrastructure plan on Tuesday.
- They appeared no likelier to support it even if it’s split into two packages.
- “I don’t think our guys are going take the bait on that,” Sen. John Thune said.
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President Joe Biden’s economic team is in the early stages of drafting a $US3 ($4) trillion infrastructure plan that could be split into several packages. But Republicans in Congress panned it on Tuesday, a fresh sign that a bipartisan deal may be hard to reach in the months ahead.
Senate Republicans unloaded on the White House proposal, one that hasn’t been formally unveiled yet. It includes an initial bill focused on roads, bridges, and climate-related spending. The other would be geared at social infrastructure, featuring measures including universal pre-K, free community college, and a renewal of periodic cash payments for parents.
The Biden administration is weighing whether to divide it in two in a bid to attract GOP support. But Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranked Senate Republican, called it a ruse on Tuesday.
“If this is the strategy you’re talking about and if this is what they decide to employ, it’s a pretty cynical ploy to try and appeal to Republicans to vote for all that stuff, and then do reconciliation to do all the other hard stuff,” Thune told reporters, referring to a maneuver that only requires Democrats to obtain a simple majority vote in the Senate to pass certain bills.
He said of Republicans: “I don’t think our guys are going take the bait on that.”
Others, like Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, assailed the Biden administration for seeking tax hikes on the highest-earning Americans and multinational corporations to finance the plan.
“He won’t say massive tax increase, and he wants to allocate the tax responsibility in this country, on the basis of class,” Kennedy told reporters. “That’s a hell of a way to make tax policy, you don’t make tax policy on the basis of class.”
The barrage of criticism came as Democrats have signaled they are ready to again bypass Republicans using reconciliation, after they used the tactic to approve the $US1.9 ($2) trillion coronavirus relief law.
“We want this to be as bipartisan as possible but we don’t want bipartisanship to limit what it does,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday.
Pelosi also indicated she wanted the package to expand Medicaid insurance coverage and cut prescription drug costs, both key Democratic priorities.
Other top House Democrats indicated earlier this month they were considering a plan to authorize Medicare to negotiate cheaper drug prices with pharmaceutical businesses, and routing savings towards paying for a plan.
A Democratic push to pass an infrastructure will likely stretch for many months. Progressives are also urging the Biden administration to move aggressively and implement bold measures to combat economic inequality and climate change.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said in a New York Times podcast interview published Tuesday “now we have to deal with the long-term structural problems facing our country that have long, long been neglected way before the pandemic.”
Still, a plan did not appear to be finalized yet. White House press secretary wrote in a Monday tweet that Biden would not publicly unveil a proposal this week.
-Jen Psaki (@PressSec) March 22, 2021
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday defended the administration’s forthcoming plan as a critical measure to secure the nation’s economic recovery.
“I think a package that consists of investments in people, investments in infrastructure, will help to create good jobs in the American economy, and changes in the tax structure will help to pay for those programs,” Yellen said at a congressional hearing.