WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Thursday suggested the administration is willing to advance its $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan with no Republican support, setting the stage for another bruising spending battle in Washington.
While stressing the White House hopes to secure GOP support for the measure, Klain signaled that the administration is willing to use Democrats’ narrow majorities in the House and Senate to approve legislation aimed at rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and confronting climate change. Klain also repeatedly said that the White House was optimistic it could garner GOP support for the plan and would try to do so.
Republicans have already balked at President Joe Biden’s sprawling initiative since its introduction Wednesday, leveling particularly fierce criticism at tax hikes on businesses that would reverse much of their 2017 tax law.
“Let’s work together and see if there’s a way for us to deliver this. In the end, let me be clear, the president was elected to do a job. And part of that job is to get this country ready to win the future. That’s what he’s going to do,” Klain told Politico. “We intend to deliver.”
Lawmakers of both parties have traditionally supported infrastructure investments, but Republicans have never backed the extent of clean-energy policies or tax hikes Biden’s new plan entails. If Republicans unify in opposing the measure, Democrats could pass it through the Senate with their narrow majority by using a parliamentary procedure called budget reconciliation that allows them to avoid the 60-vote threshold necessary to end a filibuster. The 100-seat Senate is split 50-50 between lawmakers who caucus with Democrats and Republicans, though Vice President Harris can cast a tiebreaking vote. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday the administration would like the measure to be passed “by the summer.”
The comments from Biden’s chief of staff mark the beginning of the difficult legislative wrangling expected to ensue for months over the White House’s major domestic policy initiative. Biden’s American Jobs Plan would devote more than $600 billion to the United States’ physical infrastructure, such as its roads, bridges and highways; about $400 billion in clean-energy credits; more than $200 billion to housing; and hundreds of billions to fixing the nation’s electric grid, high-speed broadband and lead water pipes, among other measures.
Biden on Thursday said he has asked five cabinet members to make the case for the jobs proposal to the American public. They are Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
Congressional Republicans have panned the White House plan, alleging it is full of wasteful spending and would be damaging to American businesses. Biden’s proposal would raise at least $2 trillion in taxes, by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent and bringing the global minimum tax to 21 percent, among other tax increases.
Speaking in Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted the proposed tax increases Thursday as a “big mistake.” While GOP lawmakers support new infrastructure investments, McConnell said Congress could not afford to “whack the economy with major tax increases or run up the national debt even more.”
“I think that package they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side,” he said.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, similarly blasted the president’s infrastructure proposal as a “clear attempt to transform the economy by advancing progressive priorities in an unprecedented way.”
“The proposal would aggressively drive down the use of traditional energy resources and eliminate good-paying jobs in West Virginia and across the country,” she added in a statement. “Perhaps worst of all, it would burden the American economy with tax increases as our country attempts to recover from economic hardship.”
During the debate over the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, Biden and other White House officials rankled congressional Republicans by saying the plan was bipartisan because it enjoyed support among GOP voters. No Republican in either the House or Senate supported the measure. Klain suggested reprising a similar argument over the infrastructure plan.
“We know it has bipartisan support in the country, so we’ll try our best to get bipartisan support in Washington,” Klain said. He said, “you can go any given week to any Rotary Club in America and find elected leaders at every level of government” who support rebuilding the nation’s lead pipes and other infrastructure.
During his speech in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Biden said he would invite Republicans into the Oval Office to discuss the measure and be open to their ideas as part of a “good-faith negotiation.” “There’s no reason why it can’t be bipartisan again,” Biden said, citing GOP support for other infrastructure measures. “But we have to get it done.”