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Pittsburgh tour: Biden moves on to a vast array of bold and progressive infrastructure

His aides circulated biographies and historical accounts of the 32nd president before taking control of the West Wing, said a person familiar with the preparation.

And Biden consulted a panel of presidential historians in the East Room shortly after taking office, demonstrating what one participant described as extensive knowledge not only of the architect of the New Deal, but of another. Democrat, Lyndon B. Johnson, whose broad view the government Biden hopes to emulate.

The plan he will unveil in Pittsburgh on Wednesday includes $ 2.25 trillion in direct spending, with an additional $ 400 billion in clean energy tax credits, a person familiar with the matter said. The $ 2.25 trillion would include $ 650 billion for physical infrastructure, $ 300 billion for housing infrastructure, $ 300 billion for manufacturing, $ 300 billion for power grid and $ 400 billion for electricity. home guards and care for the elderly and disabled.

The second part of the proposal – which will likely include funding for child care, preschool education and health care – will be announced in April and is still being drafted, although sources have said that it could cost about the same.

Instead of emulating the last Democratic administration, in which he served as vice president, Biden hopes to model the more transformational change offered by his 20th-century predecessors, FDR and LBJ.

He believes his party has more fully embraced progressive causes since his last stint in the White House, officials say, and believes the dual health and economic crisis caused by Covid-19 has made it urgent to pass major legislation. And he has not hesitated to point out areas that he says President Barack Obama has failed and in which he will strive to be more ambitious.

“He is clearly aware that he is at a great historic moment,” said a senior administration official involved in the president’s deliberations on his legislative program. “These few months are his best chance to make his mark and he wants it to be one that people will remember for a long time.”

Through it all, he learned lessons from the history books that his predecessors encountered the moment – and how they went about it.

“It’s a matter of timing. As you have all observed, presidents who are more successful than I have succeeded in large part because they know how to time what they are doing,” he said. at a press conference last week. “The order, decide on the priorities, what needs to be done.”

Scan planes

For Biden, that now means a comprehensive infrastructure plan that goes far beyond just repairing roads, making airports more pleasant or preventing bridges from falling apart – although he wants to do that, too.

Instead, Biden sees the package as an opportunity to lead the fight against climate change, strengthen the federal safety net, and make the United States more competitive against China.

Perhaps more than anything, however, he wants to prove that the larger role of government is not a relic of the last century, but a role that works today.

“I think the president sees this as an opportunity to strengthen American competitiveness,” Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Monday of the president’s infrastructure deployment. “It is safe to say that we will be looking for millions of jobs, and perhaps, most importantly, a chance to restore America’s leadership role, at a time when, right now, we are at a very risk. real to be left behind because of the cost of divesting our infrastructure. “

For Biden, this is a posture that relatively few would have predicted he would hold when he launched his campaign for president. He is, after all, the same man who, after a 36-year career in the Senate and eight years as Deputy Speaker, made himself a transitional figure in the party while pushing the idea of the long-lost bipartisan courtesy.

But that same campaign has produced some of the most progressive economic policy proposals in a generation – and officials have repeatedly argued that its political deployments largely mimic these far-reaching goals. They also make it clear that Biden has no intention of backing them off.

Instead, he envisions a time – when a pandemic-ravaged country has seen economic fragilities exacerbated to a level of unseen hardship – when he can usher in an era of transformation. The acronyms of former presidents who hold this mantle aren’t just a messaging strategy, officials say. In the White House, they are adopted by the president himself.

“This is the first time that we have been able, since the Johnson administration and maybe even before that, to start paradigm shifting,” Biden said in March.

Progressive priorities

Pittsburgh tour: Biden moves on to a vast array of bold and progressive infrastructure

Backed by a coterie of economic advisers who for years have embraced the idea of ​​radically changing the approach of the federal government, the so-called transitional figure now has clear goals to become a transformational figure.

Biden’s emphasis on history caught the attention of some progressive groups. On Tuesday, FDR’s descendants – including his grandson – and members of the cabinet who helped enact the New Deal wrote a letter to Biden to “congratulate your attention on the urgency of big and bold action. to create jobs to help rebuild America. better. “

Meeting with historians last month at the White House, Biden asked a series of questions about how his predecessors timed their agendas and capitalized on the moments, according to a person familiar with the conversation. He seemed knowledgeable about some of the decisions FDR and LBJ faced to make major changes over short periods of time and wanted to know more about what made them successful, the person said.

“Presidents love historians,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week. “I think it’s important to learn from what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past and to gain the perspective of people who study this.

One administration Biden doesn’t need a historian to examine is the one in which he last served. He has been open to the mistakes he says were made in passing the 2009 stimulus package, including failing to sell his qualities to the American people. Many of Biden’s aides, who also served in the Obama administration, believe the perceived Republicans’ concerns have kept the package too small.

Biden is aiming to pass his broad infrastructure and jobs proposal this summer, according to White House officials, setting an ambitious timetable to achieve his next major legislative goal.

If passed, the bill could amount to a transformation of the U.S. economy amid the continued recovery of the coronavirus pandemic. Likewise, the way it is paid could advance long-held progressive goals of shifting the tax burden further onto the rich and corporate.


Pittsburgh tour: Biden moves on to a vast array of bold and progressive infrastructure

The first leg of the White House proposal, which will include more than $ 2 trillion in spending, will be funded largely through business tax increases, including raising the corporate rate to 28% from its current level of 21%, and increases in the global minimum tax, the end of federal subsidies for fossil fuel companies and the obligation for multinationals to pay the US tax rate.

Internal debates over how much of the proposal to pay has been going on for several weeks, with White House officials keenly aware of potential inflationary risks, officials said. Psaki told reporters that the proposal presented on Wednesday would include mechanisms to fund the entire package over time.

While he took office promising to work across the aisle, Biden has shown little more than a surface-level interest in responding to Republicans’ demands. Officials believe infrastructure projects have more potential to attract the GOP and plan to make their point on Capitol Hill.

But they have shown limited interest in drastically reducing their ambitions to seek GOP votes when the mechanism exists to pass their package with Democrats alone. From the campaign until now, White House officials have embraced the idea that more than anything else, people just want things to be done. It’s a hallmark of their drive to push through radical initiatives – even if that largely eliminates Republicans.

Biden’s first legislative victory was instructive, aides say. While they made no significant effort to scale down their initial proposal, Biden contacted Republicans in both public and private sectors. It will do the same in the weeks and months to come, officials say.

Repeatedly, officials say, polls have shown Biden got credit for bipartisan outreach when reviewing the Covid-19 relief law. And although he failed to win the support of a single Republican, this package is now law. It’s a lesson, White House officials say, that they won’t soon forget.


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