Joe Biden’s presidency is not what most people would have predicted when the former vice president won the South Carolina primary a year ago and began his steady rise to the White House. Moderation, compromise, bipartisanship, old-school ideas – those were the words many associated with Biden, a man who spent most of his adult life as a deal maker in the United States Senate.
Now, though, finding himself at the pinnacle of power and in the eighth decade of his time on Earth, Biden is aiming to be a transformational president on the lofty level of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. On Wednesday in Pittsburgh, he unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that he says will have as big an impact on the country as the space program and the interstate highway system.
It is a plan that aims to fix the nation’s deteriorating highways and bridges, as well as the electrical grid, but that is not nearly all. There is money to shift the economy away from dependence on fossil fuels, support numerous transportation projects, establish a continental network of charging stations for electric vehicles and much more, including building affordable housing. Biden says all of this would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
In Congress, the political reception for the president’s scheme is exactly what would be expected. Republicans hate the massive package, chiefly because it would be paid for, in part, by hiking the taxes on their benefactors, very wealthy Americans. Progressive Democrats, though pleasantly surprised by Biden’s bold agenda, would like it to be even bigger; as much as $10 trillion over the next decade.
After a little tinkering to please those progressives, Democrats will navigate the infrastructure bill through the House. In the Senate, it is very likely Biden will have to push his big plan through the same way he won passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. That was by utilizing the budget reconciliation process that allows the 50 Senate Democrats and the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to thwart united opposition of the 50 Republican senators.
Biden is sailing with favorable winds. He is currently flying high in the polls and his proposal, including raising taxes on the rich, is hugely popular with a solid majority of voters. Still, he knows polls change and that he will have to buck a historic pattern to maintain Democratic control of Congress in the 2022 midterm election.
This surprising president clearly sees this moment as his chance to leave a big legacy, and he is wasting no time because he has no time to waste.
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