Joe Biden hits accelerator on historic US infrastructure spending bid

Joe Biden hits accelerator on historic US infrastructure spending bid WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden is set to make a rare visit to Congress Wednesday to bolster his Democratic party in a historic, high-wire bid to transform the United States with trillions of dollars in infrastructure spending.
Biden, 78, is due to lunch with Senate Democrats and, when he returns to the White House, meet with both Democratic and Republican state governors and mayors to discuss “critical investments,” according to his public schedule.
The meetings come as the president and his allies step on the accelerator in hopes of getting two huge spending packages passed within the next couple months.
Biden has surprised many with the scale of his desire for big government intervention, which he is subtly but clearly branding as a revival of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who pulled the United States out of the Great Depression in the 1930s.
With trillions of post-coronavirus pandemic stimulus spending already out the door, Biden now wants to seize the momentum for infrastructure investments, which he argues would transform everything from creaking bridges to inadequate public education.
Because many Republican lawmakers favor some infrastructure spending, at least when it comes to the “hard” version, like roads and bridges, Biden is also using his campaign to show he can achieve the kind of bipartisanship thought largely extinct in divided Washington.
In a balancing act that could make or break his presidency this summer, Biden is negotiating an approximately $1.2 trillion spending plan that Republicans would join, while simultaneously pursuing a much bigger version targeting “soft” infrastructure, like education, that would be supported exclusively by Democrats.
The challenge goes far beyond overcoming toxic Republican-Democratic antagonism in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Biden also needs to thread the needle within his own party.
The Democrats range from middle-of-the-road figures, like Senator Joe Manchin, who comes from the largely Republican state of West Virginia, to firebrand, self-proclaimed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.
In a breakthrough late Tuesday, top Democrats in the Senate emerged from a huddle to announce they had agreed on a second infrastructure package price tag of $3.5 trillion.
This is way off Sanders’ proposal of as much as $6 trillion in spending.
However, at $3.5 trillion, it would already be historic and Democrats said it ticked all the boxes on top priorities, including fighting climate change and boosting social welfare for the poor. By comparison, $3.5 trillion is not far off the entire annual GDP of European economic powerhouse Germany.
“Every major program that President Biden has asked us for is funded in a robust way,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a key Biden ally and the driving force behind the rapid timetable for both infrastructure packages.
The Democrats’ aim is to pass this larger deal through a so-called budget resolution, a technical maneuver that would allow them to bypass the need for Republican support.
Democrats, who have only a razor-thin majority in Congress and need some Republican support for most bills, used the same procedural move in March to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package without Republican backing.

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