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No deadline, Biden Infrastructure Bill more vulnerable to GOP attacks

Democrats rushed to pass the US bailout last month before federal unemployment benefits began to expire on March 14.

With no similar deadline for their next bill, the U.S. Jobs Plan, Democrats face months of negotiations with political infighting and more chances for Republicans to distract attention. popular arrangements such as road repairs and internet upgrades.

The White House said it hopes to see President Joe Biden’s second big agenda item, a multibillion-dollar infrastructure and jobs plan, pass through Congress by the summer. , but they also recognize that there is less urgency this time around.

“The US bailout was an emergency package,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a press briefing last week. “We have a little more time here to work and chat with members from both sides.”

Psaki added on Tuesday that the White House wanted to see “progress by May” and a bill drafted by the summer.

But there are already signs that it will be a more difficult political uprising than the COVID-19 relief bill, which included direct payments to the vast majority of American households. This next bill is out of control, and Democratic senators have started to complain about the fundamentals of Biden’s proposal. Senator Joe Manchin (W.Va.), for example, said he thought the proposed corporate tax rate of 28% was too high. Senator Mark Warner (Virginia) also indicated that he had previously raised concerns about the proposal with the White House.

Democrats always operate with slim margins in both the House and Senate, and any Democrat who makes demands can block momentum.

Bill Clark via Getty Images

Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) speaks with reporters in the Senate subway as he arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 24.

As Republicans learned the hard way when they tried and failed to repeal Obamacare in 2017, dragging out negotiations can be politically damaging. Four years ago, months of political infighting over the GOP’s healthcare bill gave healthcare advocates and Democrats more time to educate the public on the proposal, reducing its popularity. and by making exercise politically toxic. Republicans will have more time to develop an opposition campaign strategy against this legislation in a way that they have not been able to against the popular coronavirus relief bill which was passed only with Democratic votes last month.

“Since the time frame for a bill to pass is longer and does not contain the two magic words of ‘COVID relief’ that gives Republicans the ability to define the bill on their terms,” educate the audience about what’s in it that doesn’t. ‘have nothing to do with infrastructure, and ultimately their hope is to turn the tide in a way they couldn’t do with the COVID bill, ”said Doug Heye, a strategist Republican in communications and former Hill staff.

Republicans are already complaining that Biden’s plan is spending money on things that weren’t traditionally seen as infrastructure, such as home care and elderly care. But the playbook is the same one they used against COVID-19 relief – one that has failed to resonate with the public.

The unemployment deadline Democrats faced as they worked on the US bailout was put in place by the previous bailout bill, passed in December. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Leader at the time, had tried to make sure that there was less of a sudden cut when millions of people would lose benefits if Congress did not act. not. The December bill did not reject new claims until after March 14, while allowing federal benefits to continue until early April – but Democrats simply took the earlier date as a urgent deadline.

The American Rescue Plan implemented a September expiry of federal unemployment programs, which include a weekly supplement of $ 300 as well as benefits for gig workers who are normally ineligible. If Democrats are to maintain these programs, they will likely have to do so before the August recess. The White House omitted an extension of its initial outline for the infrastructure bill.

By September, the national unemployment rate will likely have dropped significantly, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Is preparing to unveil a major reform of the federal-state unemployment insurance system, with the primary objective of making the sufficiently responsive system. that Congress does not have to accumulate additional benefits every time there is a recession.

Democrats in the House are taking the lead in drafting Biden’s infrastructure and jobs proposal. President Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Told reporters last week that her goal is to get Biden’s infrastructure bill passed as early as July 4. a limit on deductions for state and local taxes, a feature of the tax law Republicans passed in 2017. Currently, Pelosi can only lose three Democrats to pass legislation without GOP support.

Shaping the bill in the Senate could prove even more difficult. Already, centrist Democrats are demanding changes to how Biden’s plan is funded, including his corporate tax hike.

“If I don’t vote to participate, it’s not going anywhere,” Manchin said in an interview on Monday. “So we’re going to have some weight here – it’s more than me. There are six or seven other Democrats who are very attached to this.

Ideas in Biden’s plan, such as replacing lead pipes and extending high-speed Internet to all Americans; a government review of roads, bridges and waterways; and forcing companies to pay for it all is extremely popular. But support for these ideas wanes when the ideas are tied to one party, a Reuters / Ipsos poll found last week.

Kevin Robillard contributed reporting.


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