US President Joe Biden is ramping up pressure on Republicans to support his $2.25trillion (€1.89trn) infrastructure plan, appealing directly to GOP voters while lawmakers are in their home districts during the current congressional recess.
Mr Biden delivered his second major sales pitch in a week for the “American jobs plan” with a White House speech, as he and his team reached out to governors, mayors and the broader public through phone calls, briefings and local TV appearances to make their case.
“I’m going to push as hard as I can to change the circumstances so we can compete with the rest of the world,” Mr Biden said on Monday when asked about negotiations with Republicans over the proposal. “Everybody around the world is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure. And we’re going to do it here.”
White House aides have said they want Congress to make significant progress on an infrastructure bill by May 31. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio said his panel aims to complete its part in the third week of May.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Mr Biden hosted lawmakers in the Oval Office to exchange views on the plan. But the White House is also prepared to use a budget measure called reconciliation that would allow Democrats – as long as they stay unified in the 50-50 Senate – to pass a bill without any support from Republicans.
Republican lawmakers have criticised Mr Biden’s plan, calling it too large after his $1.9trn (€1.6trn) pandemic-relief bill.
“We hope that Republicans can join their constituents across the country in supporting this effort,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Ultimately, if that doesn’t happen, he is elected to do the job, to win the future for America, to invest in our people.”
In the meantime, Mr Biden is having to deal with dissension among Senate Democrats. Progressives want the plan to be bigger, while moderates such as Senator Joe Manchin oppose raising the corporate tax rate to 28pc from 21pc, as Mr Biden has outlined. He would prefer a corporate rate of 25pc, he said.
“There are six or seven other Democrats that feel strongly about this,” Mr Manchin said. “We have to be competitive and we are not going to throw caution to the wind.”
Republicans spent the early part of the week mulling the best way to fight. Many GOP members expressed disappointment they weren’t able to have more say in the $1.9trn (€1.6trn) pandemic-relief bill that Mr Biden signed.
Republican lawmakers, conservatives and some business groups are starting to form coalitions to counter Mr Biden’s proposal.
Conservatives including Marc Short – Mike Pence’s chief of staff, who is now leading the Coalition to Protect American Workers – argue that raising corporate taxes and spending trillions of dollars could lead to job losses.
“When the Biden-Obama stimulus passed, it took three years to get under 7pc unemployment,” Mr Short said.
Many lobbyists consider the corporate rate would ultimately end up around 25pc if Congress does end up passing a version of the package. But GOP lawmakers and lobbyists are less certain about combating changes Mr Biden has proposed to the global minimum tax, which they say are too complicated for a slogan or ad.
One Republican lobbyist argued that Republicans, conservatives and other groups have plenty of time to coalesce around a few messages to beat back parts of the package. They believe passing anything by July 4 is overly optimistic.
But even the business community isn’t united. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos said this week that he supported investing in US infrastructure and a hike in the corporate tax rate to help pay for it – while stopping short of specifying what new rate he’d support.
Wall Street analysts anticipate months of talks, concluding with potentially one giant bill that also wraps in the “American families plan” – a package of social spending and tax hikes on individuals and wealthy households.
“We expect enacted tax hikes will be lower than proposed given procedural constraints and the stated position of sufficient Democratic members of Congress,” Morgan Stanley analysts, led by Michael Zezas, wrote in a recent note to clients.
“Yet we expect AJP spending levels to mostly hold, as proposals focus on topics that appear to have consensus support among Democrats.”