U.S. President Joe Biden will be in Pittsburgh today to announce a massive new jobs and infrastructure plan worth as much as US$4 trillion over the next eight to 10 years, potentially paid for with tax hikes of up to $3 trillion on corporations and the country’s highest income earners.
Biden “is set to announce the first phase of the package” later today, “kicking off a legislative battle that could help decide which party controls both the House and the Senate after the 2022 mid-terms,” the Washington Post reports. “The undertaking will mark the first major test of the Biden administration’s ability to shepherd a traditional legislative spending package through a Congress narrowly held by Democrats—while presenting the administration with an enormous political challenge in persuading lawmakers to pass a package that would represent the largest tax hike in generations.”
The plan is expected to include a $2.25-trillion infrastructure package that allots $300 billion for affordable housing infrastructure, $300 billion for domestic manufacturing, and $100 billion to rebuild the country’s electricity grid, the Post adds—all priorities on the road to rapid decarbonization.
A Royal Bank of Canada report this week concludes that Biden’s infrastructure plan will mean export opportunities for Canada in electric vehicles and other clean technologies. But the bank, with its continuing, epic commitment to fossil fuel investment since the Paris Agreement, still sees the country primarily as a purveyor of products like crude oil and petroleum products that “rank low on the complexity scale,” the Toronto Star reports.
The two Post stories, along with news reports from other outlets, carry a range of estimates for the size of the Biden spending package and the duration of the overall program. Bloomberg Green has labour and environmental groups urging Biden to push through to the $4-trillion threshold, while “a growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers and progressive groups band together to push Biden to spend more on fighting climate change as part of his ‘Build Back Better’ initiative.” That includes a call from Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) for a $1-trillion-per-year program to cut pollution in half by 2030.
“We have a chance to truly in this moment build back better—and greener—than ever before,” Markey said. “We have a chance to lay out our economic vision for the next generation while repairing historic injustices done to front-line communities and communities of colour.”
If it flies, “Biden’s package would mark the largest spending bill in sheer dollars in the nation’s history,” the Post states. “But as a percentage of gross domestic product on a yearly basis, the overall 10-year package is actually much smaller than other major economic packages,” including the economic stimulus the U.S. has rolled out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While White House officials are preparing for a longer, more complicated set of negotiations with Congress than they went through with their recent $1.9-trillion pandemic relief package, news reports over the last couple of weeks have stressed that they’re determined to avoid a more cautious, incremental approach that is now seen as a largely missed opportunity during the Obama presidency.
“The president has a plan to fix our infrastructure and a plan to pay for it,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “But we certainly expect to have the discussion with members of Congress, as we move forward, about areas where they agree, where they disagree, where they would like to see greater emphasis or not.”
Administration officials “are sending signals that the White House will listen to suggestions and criticism alike from both parties and that significant changes could occur during the legislative process,” The Associated Press writes. “At the same time, congressional leaders are preparing a go-it-alone strategy, much as was done in the virus aid package, in case Congress hits a wall of GOP opposition.”
“If they share a goal of building our infrastructure for the future, but don’t like the way he’s going to propose to pay for it, we’re happy to look at their proposals,” Psaki said. “If they don’t want to pay for it, I guess they can propose that, too. Maybe they don’t support infrastructure spending.”
AP adds that “the physical infrastructure part of the package is not just about updating roads, bridges, rail, public transit, and airports. It also is expected to include broadband, electric vehicle charging stations, and investments in clean energy and domestic manufacturing, making it far more expansive than what Republicans usually discuss.”