Joe Biden’s self-proclaimed deadline to reach an agreement with Republicans on an infrastructure spending bill will expire on May 31, so the GOP gave the president one, final number: $928 billion over 10 years for roads, bridges, and other hard infrastructure projects.
Missing from the Republican proposal is money to deal with climate change. And there’s a paltry $4 billion for electric cars.
Where some would see that as a blessing, Biden will no doubt see it as a deal-breaker. The president wanted hundreds of billions of dollars for climate change and $174 billion for electric cars. Not that there was ever much chance of a deal being made. Biden’s “bipartisan” efforts have been all for show. To be fair, Republicans didn’t want to give Biden a chance to succeed either.
But the GOP counteroffer means that negotiations will probably continue into next week.
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), one of the lawmakers involved in the talks, said Thursday that they count about $700 billion in still-unspent funds under the last coronavirus relief package. That includes money designated for use between 2022 and 2031 to help state and local governments, bolster coronavirus testing and expand the child tax credit, all major Democratic priorities.
“We believe that repurposing these funds needs to be a really important part of how we fill this gap,” Toomey said.
In response, Psaki faulted the plan for its lack of funding, particularly toward replacing lead pipes and providing veterans care.
Senators Mitt Romney and Joe Manchin have gotten together in recent days, trying to hammer out their own compromise. It’s a futile effort, given that most senators don’t want either of them in their caucuses. Any proposal they come up with will likely be ignored by both sides.
But Manchin’s insistence that Biden find some kind of compromise with Republicans on spending and taxes is what’s staying Biden’s hand from pulling the trigger on another reconciliation effort. Manchin has stated he won’t vote for another reconciliation, demanding that Biden negotiate with the GOP. Biden will need all 50 Democratic senators to ram his infrastructure package through, so for now, the Kabuki dance of bipartisanship will continue.
As it haggles with the GOP, the White House also faced new political demands from lawmakers from its own party on Thursday. More than 200 House Democrats banded together to issue a new warning as part of the contentious debate over infrastructure spending: Include strong union and labor protections, or possibly risk losing some of their support.
In their letter, House Democrats stressed that Congress must couple any new federal loans, grants or tax benefits to improve the country’s infrastructure with a series of policy mandates to help workers. The companies that stand to profit from this potential influx of government aid must make it easy for employees to unionize, pay them prevailing wages, take action to prevent wage theft and train workers through apprenticeship programs for future positions, the lawmakers said.
It’s nice to know that AFL-CIO lobbyists have been so busy spending workers’ dues money to schmooze with so many congressmen. They certainly haven’t lost their touch — with Democrats, anyway.
But Biden is smarter than that. He knows there are at least a half-dozen Democrats who would vote against a bill that checked off so many items on the unions’ to-do list. After all, there’s plenty of money in his plan for union jobs already.
It’s by no means a certainty that every Democrat will vote for Biden’s plan. He still has a lot of negotiating to do, most of it with his own party.