Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke fondly of President Biden on a personal level Wednesday – even as he vowed to rally Republicans to fight his $2 trillion infrastructure plan ‘every step of the way.’
He spoke to reporters in his home state of Kentucky two days after Biden phoned him to talk up the plan – which has been touted as a potential area for bipartisan cooperation.
Early words from top Republicans indicate that isn’t likely to happen.
‘I don’t think the American people gave them a mandate to drive our country all the way to the political left,’ McConnell told reporters. ‘I’m going to fight them every step of the way,’ he added.
‘I don’t think the American people gave them a mandate to drive our country all the way to the political left,’ said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
McConnell, who has served since 1985, served with Biden for decades in the chamber, and used to push through spending projects himself as a ‘cardinal’ on the Appropriations Committee.
‘I like him personally, I mean, we’ve been friends for a long time. He’s a first-rate person. Nevertheless, this is a bold, left-wing administration. I don’t think they have a mandate to do what they’re doing,’ he said, the Hill reported.
In addition to vowing to fight the plan – with his stocked with projects for roads, bridges, housing, drinking water, and workforce training, funded by tax hikes – McConnell didn’t appear to hold out much hope for a negotiated package.
‘I would love to find some things that we can agree on,’ he said, adding that there are ‘big philosophical differences and that’s going to make it more and more difficult for us to reach bipartisan agreements.’
McConnell blasted the plan Wednesday as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for tax hikes. But he also indicated there could be provisions in it that help his state, like funds for the Brett Spence Bridge across the Ohio River.
‘Could there end up being something in there? It could be,’ he said, WKRC reported.
McConnell fumed in a fiery speech that former President Trump ‘provoked’ the Capitol riot, but did not vote to impeach him, and the chamber has settled back mostly along familiar partisan divisions at the start of the session.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain on Thursday also indicated he would welcome Republican support – but indicated Biden would act with our without it.
‘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,’ he told Politico. ‘That is what he is going to do.’
Biden’s plan contains funds for much more than roads and bridges – and would spend billions to address ‘persistent income inequalities’ in struggling neighborhoods.
The plan is filled with language setting out a specific goal of steering jobs, grants, apprenticeships, and other benefits to minorities and women. And while Republicans have focused on its price tag and tax cuts to pay for it, they have begun to focus on its workforce development and other programs that they say pads brick and mortar proposals.
A plan for 15 decarbonized hydrogen demonstration projects – meant to reduce carbon output by industry – would target them for ‘distressed communities,’ relying on a production tax credit to encourage them.
Amid a history of not-in-my-backyard clashes, the plan includes steps for carbon capture facilities ‘ensuring that overburdened communities are protected from increases in cumulative pollution.’
President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan includes billions for apprenticeships, workforce development, and programs meant to benefit ‘underserved groups’ including women and minorities. Republicans have begun to go after ‘social welfare’ programs in the package
A $48 billion program would go for ‘American workforce development infrastructure and worker protection,’ and is described as through successful pre-apprenticeship programs such as the Women in Apprenticeships in Non-Traditional Occupations.’
‘This will ensure these underserved groups have greater access to new infrastructure jobs,’ according to the plan.
Included amid ‘persistent economic inequalities’ would be $12 billion for workforce development in ‘underserved communities,’ with as well as $5 billion over eight years for ‘evidence-based community violence prevention programs.’
‘President Biden also will call upon Congress to ensure that new jobs created in clean energy, manufacturing, and infrastructure are open and accessible to women and people of color. President Biden is calling on Congress to also specifically target funding to workers facing some of the greatest challenges,’ the plan says.
All of it would move in the large $2.3 trillion package – with Senate Democratic leaders hinting they may seek to move it under new ‘reconciliation’ instructions to protect it from a likely GOP filibuster. The anticipated roadblocks for other legislation has induced Biden and his team to push a raft of proposals into the single plan.
Data have shown that minorities have been hard hit by the coronavirus and its economic effects. Minorities and women were also a key part of Biden’s winning electoral coalition.
The plan was developed ‘with equity in mind,’ it says.
The plan calls for billions for apprenticeships to ensure women and minorities are prepared for green jobs created by the spending
The plan calls for a special fund for neighborhoods ‘cut off by historic investments’
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) blasted the infrastructure plan as the ‘wrong approach,’ while progressive Democrats are demanding Biden go even bigger
In this March 13, 2020, file photo, unionized hospitality workers wait in line in a basement garage to apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy in Los Angeles. California’s unemployment rate nearly tripled in April because of the economic fallout from coronavirus pandemic
‘Too often, past transportation investments divided communities – like the Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans or I-81 in Syracuse – or it left out the people most in need of affordable transportation options,’ it says. The Claiborne Expressway cuts through the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. A project touted by the Mayor of Syracuse proposes to remove 1.4 miles of elevated roadway that sliced through part of a mostly black neighborhood in the 1950s and 60s.
‘The President’s plan includes $20 billion for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access,’ it says.
Funds to mitigate floods and disasters are also couched in language of safeguarding infrastructure and defending ‘vulnerable communities.’
‘People of color and low-income people are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events,’ it states.
A section of the package on prevailing wages and union jobs notes states that: ‘This is especially important for workers of color and for women, who have endured discrimination and systematic exclusion from economic opportunities for generations.’
‘All of us deserve to enjoy America’s promise in full — and our nation’s leaders have a responsibility to overcome racial, gender, and other inequalities to make it happen. To that end, the President is calling on Congress to create new, good-quality union jobs for American workers by leveraging their grit and ingenuity to address the climate crisis and build a sustainable infrastructure,’ it stsates.
Biden ‘Biden is calling on Congress to update the social contract that provides workers with a fair shot to get ahead, overcome racial and other inequalities that have been barriers for too many Americans, expand the middle class, and strengthen communities,’ according to the plan.
The plan, which the White House released Wednesday as the Derek Chauvin trial for the death of George Floyd was getting underway, includes a proposed $10 billion to enforce its workforce proposals, while calling for increased penalties for employers who break safety and health rules.
‘President Biden is calling on Congress to provide the federal government with the tools it needs to ensure employers are providing workers with good jobs – including jobs with fair and equal pay, safe and healthy workplaces, and workplaces free from racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination and harassment,’ it states.
Most Republican critics of the plan have focused on its tax hikes, while singling out its push for green infrastructure.
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy retweeted a column by Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel saying roads and bridges accounted for ‘a mere $115 billion of President Biden’s infrastructure proposal. The rest includes climate subsidies and social welfare.’
Also blasting the plan was Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio – a center-right lawmaker from a rust belt state who is among lawmakers retiring in 2022.
‘At its core, the president’s plan calls for a $620 billion investment in transportation infrastructure. However, the total soars to $3 trillion with its inclusion of these broad policy priorities that are a far cry away from what we’ve ever defined as infrastructure,’ said Portman.
‘The Biden Administration’s plan redefines infrastructure to include hundreds of billions of dollars of spending on priorities like health care, workforce development, and research and development.’
He called it the ‘wrong approach.’
‘The largest tax hike in American history in order to pay for the kind of Green New Deal spending outlined by President Biden today should be a nonstarter in Congress,’ said Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the chair of the House Republican Conference.
To pay for the plan, Biden is calling for tax hikes like an increase in the corporate rate, although even after a period of 15 years they would not pay for all of the plan, leaving about $1 trillion not paid for.
Meanwhile, some progressive Democrats are already attacking the plan for not being big enough – and fretting that health care and other ‘social infrastructure’ components might die if they all get included in a second package that might be less politically popular.
‘This is not nearly enough,’ said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY.). ‘The important context here is that it’s $2.25T spread out over 10 years. For context, the COVID package was $1.9T for this year *alone,* with some provision lasting 2 years.’
What’s inside Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure package
Electric vehicles: $174 billion to boost the markets for electric vehicles. Rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made EVs.
Included in the plan provided by the White House are grants for governments and private groups to build 500,000 electric vehicle chargers and replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles.
School buses: Replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify at least 20 percent of yellow school bus fleet. The package touts an Energy Department program called Clean Buses for Kids. It would ‘set us on a path to 100 percent clean buses,’ according to the White House.
Public Transit: Biden calls on Congress to invest $165 billion in public transit. This includes modernizing existing transit and expanding those systems. It would double federal funding for an area that is a top part of state and local budgets. According to the White House it would ‘bring bus, bus rapid transit, and rail service to communities and neighborhoods across the country’ without specifying which ones, and claims it would ‘ultimately reduce traffic congestion for everyone.’
Lead pipes: After a campaign where the Flint drinking water fiasco became a top issue for Democrats, the proposal includes $45 billion for a plan to eliminate all lead pipes used in water distribution. The funds would be administered through EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and in Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act grants to localities.
‘Made in America’: ‘Made in America’ provisions on manufacturing and shipping. According to the White House, it will ‘require that goods and materials are made in America and shipped on U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed vessels.’ Similar ‘made in America’ provisions are common on legislation. The White says its plan ‘will ensure that Americans who have endured systemic discrimination and exclusion for generations finally have a fair shot at obtaining good paying jobs and being part of a union.’
Bridge and highway modernization: $115 billion to modernize the bridges, highways, roads, and main streets in ‘critical need’. The White House cites statistics saying 173,000 total miles of highways are in poor condition, along with 45,000 bridges. The plan also calls for funds to repair 10,000 ‘smaller bridges’ that provide ‘critical connections to rural and tribal communities’.
Protect cyclists and pedestrians: Bikes, too, would get a share of the billions. The package includes $20 billion for safety – including funds to ‘reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians’.
Transit: Biden is calling for $85 billion to modernize existing transit. A Transportation Department figure cites a maintenance backlog of $105 billion, which includes 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars, 200 stations, plus track and other systems. The infusion, if enacted, would double the current federal funding.
Amtrak: Biden, a lifetime rail enthusiast who used to commute by train between Wilmington and Washington, would shower $80 billion on Amtrak to modernize the system and improve the Northeast Corridor, which links D.C. to New York and points North. The money would go to fund repairs, boost safety and electrification, and connect new pairs of cities. Grants would ‘support passenger and freight rail safety, efficiency, and electrification.’
Airports: The plan calls for $25 billion for airports, with funds going to the existing Airport Improvement Program. It also calls for upgrades to Federal Aviation Administration assets that ‘ensure safe and efficient air travel,’ with a new program for terminal renovations and connections.
Waterways: $17 billion for inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries.
Neighborhoods cut off by roads: $20 billion to reconnect neighborhoods cut off by highways and historic investments, plus research on ‘advanced pavements’.
Water restoration: Unspecified investment for ‘the protection and restoration of major land and water resources like Florida’s Everglades and the Great Lakes’.
Broadband: Push for ‘100 percent high-speed broadband coverage’ in the nation. Work with Congress to lower internet prices. The plan says Biden ‘recognizes that individual subsidies to cover internet costs may be needed in the short term,’ but thinks continually providing subsidies ‘is not the right long-term solution.’
Power grid: Build more resilient power system. Targeted investment tax credit to help build out 20 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.
Plug oil wells: Spend $16 billion to plug ‘orphan’ oil and gas wells.
Brownfields: $5 billion for brownfields and Superfund sites.
Industrial clean energy: 15 decarbonized hydrogen demonstration projects to get industry to use clean technology.
Civilian Climate Corps: $10 billion for new Civilian Climate Corps. It’s unclear what this new unit will entail.
Affordable housing: $213 billion to ‘produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live.’ Includes ‘project-based rental assistance.’ $40 billion for public housing infrastructure.
Home energy: $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator for home energy upgrades.
Schools: $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, half through grants and half through bonds.
Community colleges: $12 billion to invest in community college infrastructure.
Child care: $25 billion to upgrade child care facilities.
Veterans: $18 billion for VA hospitals.
Home care: $400 billion toward ‘expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities’.
R&D: $35 billion in R&D investments. Includes $5 billion for climate research
HBCUs: $10 billion for R&D investment at historically black colleges and universities
Pandemics: $30 billion in pandemic counter measures. Includes investments in medical stockpile, testing, and research.
Power sources: $46 billion for charging ports, advanced nuclear reactors and fuel, electric heat pumps for buildings.
Dislocated workers: $40 building for dislocated workers.
Workforce training: Workforce training amid ‘persistent economic inequalities’: $12 billion for workforce development in ‘underserved communities.’ $5 billion for community violence prevention.
Apprenticeships: $48 billion in ‘American workforce development’ including 2 million new apprenticeships.
Enforcement: $10 billion to ensure fair and equal pay, workplace safety, and job sites ‘free from racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination and harassment’.