President Joe Biden on Wednesday unveiled the next major item on his legislative agenda: A sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure plan to modernize and rebuild the country’s roads, bridges, and transit systems, revitalize manufacturing, create high-paying jobs, and deliver high-speed broadband internet to all Americans.
Biden announced the first phase of his “Build Back Better” initiative — dubbed the American Jobs Plan — at an event in Pittsburgh, a measure the White House calls a “historic public investment” in America not seen since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, or the space race in the 1960s.
“Two years ago, I began my campaign here in Pittsburgh, saying I was running to rebuild the backbone of America,” Biden began. “And today, I return as your president to lay out the vision of how I believe we do that.”
Biden’s choice of Pittsburgh for unveiling the plan carried important economic and political resonance. He not only won Pittsburgh and its surrounding county to help secure the presidency, but he launched his campaign there in 2019. The city famed for steel mills that powered America’s industrial rise has steadily pivoted toward technology and health care, drawing in college graduates in a sign of how economies can change.
Calling his plan a “once-in-a-generation investment in America,” Biden stressed the need to “build our economy from the bottom up and from the middle out, not the top down.”
The massive investment could be completely paid for in 15 years with Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax from 21% to 28%, a plan the president is coupling with the infrastructure package. The tax overhaul would also create incentives to keep jobs in America while disincentivizing offshoring jobs, prevent U.S. companies from claiming tax havens in another country, and ramp up enforcement against corporations.
Biden said he's open to ideas on how to pay for the plan, but urged swift action to carry out his proposals.
"Let me be clear, these are my ideas on how to pay for this plan. If others have additional ideas, let them come forward," he said. "I'm open to other ideas so long as they do not impose any tax increase on people making less than $400,000 dollars."
And while the president acknowledged the impressive scale of the proposal, he said the investment is a necessary one for the future of the country.
“I'm convinced that, if we act now, in 50 years, people are going to look back and say this was the moment that America won the future,” Biden said.
While the trade-off could lead to fierce resistance from the business community and thwart attempts to work with Republicans lawmakers, Biden pledged to have “good faith negotiations” with GOP lawmakers, saying: “I'm going to bring Republicans into the Oval Office, listen to them, what they have to say and be open to other ideas."
“Historically, infrastructure has been bipartisan,” he added. “There is no reason it can’t be bipartisan again. The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing right by the future.”
"I don't think you'll find a Republican today, in the House or Senate, maybe I'm wrong, gentlemen, who doesn't think we don't have to improve our infrastructure," Biden said, after noting that Republican presidents from Lincoln to Eisenhower have championed infrastructure bills. "They know China and other countries are eating our lunch. So there's no reason why it can't be bipartisan again."
Biden’s proposal will meet what the White House calls “the great challenges of our time,” competing with China and tackling the climate crisis.
The bill will invest 1% of GDP per year over eight years “to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, revitalize manufacturing, invest in basic research and science, shore up supply chains, and solidify our care infrastructure,” according to the White House.
The proposed infrastructure bill will:
- Invest $621 billion in transportation infrastructure, including repairing bridges 20,000 highways, roads, and main streets, investing in rail service, modernize public transit
- Deliver high-speed broadband internet to all Americans and reduce the cost of broadband service
- Spend $100 billion to modernize America’s electric grid
- Modernize and upgrade America’s drinking water, wastewater, and storm water systems
- Upgrade and build new public schools and child care facilities, and invest in community college infrastructure
- Improve wages and benefits for essential home care workers
- Invest in manufacturing, small businesses, invest in R&D, and workforce development to train Americans for the jobs of the future
"The American jobs plan will modernize 20,000 miles of highway, roads and main streets that are in difficult, difficult shape right now," Biden said. "It will fix the nation's 10 most economically significant bridges in America that require replacement. Remember that bridge that went down? We've got ten most economically significant bridges with more commerce going across it that need to be replaced. We'll also repair 10,000 bridges, desperately needed upgrades to unclog traffic, keep people safe and connect our cities, towns and tribes across the country."
The plan will also connect communities to more cities to advance their economic opportunity and create new train cars and rail lines to reduce pollution and congestion.
Biden also pledged to stay true to his promise to "buy American" by prioritizing American companies, products, and manufacturers.
"Not a contract will go out, that I control, that will not go to a company that is an American company, with American products all the way down the line and American workers," Biden said. "And we'll buy the goods we need from all of America, communities historically that have been left out of these investment, Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American, rural, small businesses, entrepreneurs across the country."
Already, Biden’s proposal is facing an uphill battle, in particular his Made in America Corporate tax plan, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling it a “major missed opportunity” by the administration.
“This proposal appears to use ‘infrastructure’ as a Trojan horse for the largest set of tax hikes in a generation,” McConnell’s statement continued. “These sweeping tax hikes would kill jobs and hold down wages at the worst possible time, as Americans try to dig out from the pandemic. But don’t worry, coastal elites — House Democrats are demanding a special SALT carve-out that would cut taxes for wealthy people in blue states.”
Biden said he's spoken to McConnell about his proposal: "I spoke to the Republican leader about the plan. Everybody's for doing something about infrastructure. Why haven’t we done it? Well, no one wants to pay for it."
A number of Democrats from the northeast – Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, and Reps. Bill Pascrell, Josh Gottheimer, and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey – have said they will not vote for any tax plan that does not restore the SALT deduction, a policy enacted under the former president Donald Trump’s 2017 tax plan that they say has unduly harmed families in those states.
"No SALT, no deal," Suozzi, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement. "The cap on the SALT deduction has been a body blow to New York and middle-class families in New York. Without the full SALT deduction, families will continue to leave our state and the last thing we need is to lose our residents and taxpayers. Every day the SALT cap is in place, the taxpayers of New York are hurting."
Biden said that "no one should be able to complain" about his proposed corporate tax increase: "It's still lower than what that rate was between World War II and 2017. Just doing that one thing will generate $1 trillion in additional revenue over 15 years."
Biden’s plan has also received criticism from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) say the package is "not nearly enough" and needs to be "way bigger." Fellow progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) has also pushed the White House to go bigger, telling reporters "We would like to see a great plan that goes big. The Biden infrastructure proposal on the campaign trail was significantly larger. We think there is ample room to get the number up."
In an interview with Spectrum News on Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg addressed concerns about the potential loss of jobs as the U.S. moves toward clean energy and away from things like coal.
“It's time to break the old false choice of climate versus jobs,” he said, noting that many “clean” jobs require some of the same labor and skill, such as building electric cars versus gasoline-powered ones.
“The science is giving us some very stark deadlines,” he added. “I think preventing the destruction of lives and property and jobs due to climate change is one of our biggest responsibilities. And, again, the good news is we can do that in a way that also creates millions of good-paying, lasting, often union jobs.”
Spectrum News’ Austin Landis contributed to this report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.