GOP office holders launched a broad assault on the package, arguing it was too expensive and was stuffed with overly partisan programs that had nothing to do with fixing roads and bridges.
“The Biden administration is calling it an infrastructure plan. It looks like a $2 trillion tax hike to me,” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
Democrats, meanwhile, hinted they would try to press ahead with the plan without Republican votes if necessary through a 50-50 Senate, immediately putting the focus on divisions over details that exist in their own ranks. They styled the bill as a jobs package that was needed despite strengthening employment figures as the pandemic economy begins to wake up.
“I think it’s a serious proposal dealing with some of the serious crises that we face,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said, also on “State of the Union.”
The building Washington confrontation was a sign that both parties recognize the package, part of a flurry of initiatives by Biden to benefit blue collar and middle class Americans, is a moment that will shape his legacy.
Republicans want an infrastructure plan just about infrastructure
Republicans laid out their case against the bill on Sunday by arguing that Biden’s new plan was about far more than infrastructure.
Reeves said on CNN that because Biden plans to partially finance the plan by raising corporate tax rates to 28%, above the 21% threshold set by the Trump administration in its tax overhaul plan, the infrastructure package would lead to lower growth.
He also highlighted more than $150 billion included in the Biden plan to coax Americans to switch to electric vehicles as part of a broader effort by the administration to fight climate change.
“That is a political statement. It’s not a statement trying to improve our infrastructure in America so it looks more like the Green New Deal than an infrastructure plan,” Reeves said, referring to a progressive Democratic approach to climate change that Republicans hold up as poster child of liberal excess — but that which Biden has not embraced.
“Roads and bridges and tunnels are infrastructure,” Sanders told Tapper. “But I think many of us see a crisis in human infrastructure. When a working class family can’t find good-quality, affordable child care, that’s human infrastructure.”
Making another emerging Republican case against the bill, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker claimed that Biden’s offers of bipartisanship were insincere because he wanted to undo the achievements of the Trump administration.
“How could the President expect to have bipartisanship when his proposal is a repeal of one of our signature issues in 2017, where we cut the tax rate and made the United States finally more competitive when it comes to the way we treat job creators?” Wicker asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Another powerful GOP senator, Roy Blunt of Missouri, said the Biden White House was making a big mistake and should concentrate on passing a bill alongside Republicans based on a more traditional understanding of infrastructure.
“My advice to the White House has been take that bipartisan win. Do this in a more traditional infrastructure way, and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in the Congress and the country, you can certainly do that,” Blunt said on Fox News Sunday.
But Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sought to turn the tables on Blunt and his fellow Republicans, painting them as outliers lining up against a bill Democrats hope to make as popular as Biden’s Covid rescue plan.
“And, you know, in many ways, it feels like we’ve already convinced America. Now, we just got to get Washington to follow suit.”
Democrats hint at go-it-alone plan without GOP votes
While Biden says he would like Republican buy-in to the infrastructure package, he has not shown any sign of trimming the scale of his ambitions to attract GOP votes in the Senate.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm did not rule out a bipartisan bill during an appearance on “State of the Union” but offered a broad hint of how the Senate strategizing could eventually play out with a party-line vote.
“As he has said, he was sent to the presidency to do a job for America. And if the vast majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, across the country support spending on our country and not allowing us to lose the race globally, then he’s going to do that,” Granholm told Tapper.
To get past Republican filibuster efforts, Democrats appear ready to try to pass the infrastructure package by using a procedural device known as reconciliation, which applies to legislation that affects the state of the federal budget and is the same procedure that was used to pass the Covid relief package without Republican votes.
Sanders, who is the Budget Committee chairman, predicted the Democratic side of the Senate would end up unified. “If your question is, do I think we will come together to do it? Yes, I do,” Sanders told Tapper, also on “State of the Union.”
“I think you are going to see the Democratic caucus coming together to pass very, very significant legislation.”