President Joe Biden says his infrastructure and families agenda must be passed to sustain the economic momentum of his first six months in office, aiming to set the tone for a crucial week of congressional negotiations on the two bills.
What You Need To Know
- President Joe Biden said his infrastructure and families agenda must be passed to sustain the economic momentum of his first six months in office, aiming to set the tone for a crucial week of congressional negotiations on the two bills
- A Wednesday deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the bipartisan infrastructure bill was in doubt as Republicans signaled they would block a procedural vote, for now, while details are still being worked out
- At the same time, Democrats are developing the particulars of a separate bill that would invest a stunning $3.5 trillion nationwide across Americans' lives — with support for families, education, climate resiliency and other priorities
- Key to Biden’s message is that the growth is occurring as intended and helping the U.S. middle class; yet much of it is expected to fade as the economy fully heals from the pandemic
But a Wednesday deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the bipartisan infrastructure bill was in doubt as Republicans signaled they would block a procedural vote, for now, while details are still being worked out.
Schumer said that Wednesday's vote "is not a final deadline for legislative text."
"It is not a cynical ploy," the New York Democrat added. "It is not a 'fish or cut bait' moment. It's not an attempt to jam anyone. It's only a signal that the Senate is ready to get the process started."
Schumer said that the process will give lawmakers "maximum amount of flexibility" to work out their differences, adding: "If the bipartisan group finalizes their product over the weekend, senators can offer it as an amendment at that point."
"Senators of goodwill on both sides want to finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the August recess," Schumer said. "That's certainly my goal, but in order to finish the bill, we first need to agree to start. That's the first step."
"If senators agree to start debate, there will be many, many opportunities for the bipartisan group to make their agreement the base of the bill," Schumer said. "But if Republican senators refuse to start debate, they'd be denying the Senate an opportunity to consider the bipartisan amendment."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday: “We support Sen. Schumer's efforts to move forward on the bipartisan infrastructure framework and very much appreciate the hard work until late in the night, including last night, by both Democratic and Republican senators to resolve open issues.”
Senators are wrangling over how to pay for the new spending in the $1 trillion package of highway, water system and other public works projects.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman told Spectrum News on Tuesday that the bipartisan group negotiating the infrastructure bill is still waiting for scores on certain pay-fors from the Congressional Budget Office.
"That's one reason having the vote tomorrow is premature because we don't have all that information," the Ohio Republican added.
Portman told Spectrum News that he is "very confident" the bipartisan deal can be reached, it's just a matter of when — and he noted that he was on Zoom meetings and calls until well after midnight Tuesday related to the matter.
Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins told reporters that she is going to ask Schumer to delay the cloture vote, saying that both sides are making significant progress.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, another key Republican negotiator, told reporters that GOP members of the bipartisan group want Schumer to delay the vote to Monday.
Romney told reporters that he will vote no on cloture, saying that they need more time to negotiate and signaling that unless the vote is moved, the bill will be blocked: "I think that’s where everybody is."
"We’ll be ready Monday," Romney said. "We won’t have the full text of course, but we’ll have a detailed outline."
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy concurred with Romney's remarks: "I think that’s a reasonable timeline."
Psaki said the White House sees no reason the Senate can’t hold the procedural vote Wednesday. She noted that the Senate voted earlier this year to open discussion on bills aimed at improving competition with China and curbing hate crimes against Asian Americans before legislation was finalized.
“This is a vote on a motion to proceed to a vehicle, not a vote on the final bill,” she said. “There's nothing abnormal about holding a vote on a vehicle to allow consideration at this point.”
At the same time, Democrats are developing the particulars of a separate bill that would invest a stunning $3.5 trillion nationwide across Americans' lives — with support for families, education, climate resiliency and other priorities that they aim to ultimately pass with solely Democratic support. Democrats hope to show progress on that bill before lawmakers leave Washington for their recess in August.
The legislative maneuvering marks a major test of Biden’s ability to deliver on a massive package of economic promises and reforms he made during his campaign. He’s been putting public pressure on lawmakers with a series of speeches highlighting the strengthening economy while emphasizing the need for further investment to continue that growth and to bolster the middle class. Biden's top aides met with senators late Monday.
“What the best companies do — and what we as a country should do — is make smart, sustainable investments with appropriate financing," the president said Monday at the White House.
Calling his plans a “blue-collar blueprint for building an American economy back,” Biden said, “This is the best strategy to create millions of jobs and lift up middle class families, grow wages and keep prices affordable for the long term.”
The economy has come back to life as more Americans have gotten vaccinated and Biden's earlier $1.9 trillion relief package has coursed through the country. Employers have added an average of nearly 543,000 jobs a month since January, with Federal Reserve officials anticipating overall economic growth of roughly 7% this year that would be the highest since 1984. Yet there is also uncertainty as employers say they're struggling to find workers at the current pay levels and inflation concerns have yet to fully abate.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell decried the “spending spree” as “the last thing American families need.”
McConnell and outside groups including the conservative Americans for Prosperity encouraged Republicans to vote against proceeding to the bipartisan package until they have more details. “I think we need to see the bill before we decide whether or not to vote for it,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol.
The president is pushing for more than $4 trillion in combined spending with the hopes of prolonging solid economic gains. Biden’s $3.5 trillion package focused on climate, schools and families will need support from all 50 Senate Democrats to clear a party-line vote.
Key to Biden’s message is that the growth is occurring as intended and helping the U.S. middle class. Yet much of it is expected to fade as the economy fully heals from the pandemic.
But the $973 billion infrastructure deal Biden struck with a group of Republican and Democratic senators lacks a clear plan for how to pay for it as GOP lawmakers have backed away from tax compliance enforcement by the IRS.
Instead, senators in the bipartisan group are considering rolling back a Trump-era rule on pharmaceutical rebates that could bring in some $170 billion to be used for infrastructure. No decisions have yet been made as senators huddled late Monday with administration officials on next steps.
Portman said they resolved half of the estimated two dozen unresolved issues after a marathon round of talks late Sunday with the White House.
The package needs 60 votes to defeat a GOP filibuster, a delaying tactic, and pass the Senate — which means at least 10 Republicans have to join all 50 Democrats in supporting it. With Republicans still expressing concerns over the package, the success of the Wednesday procedural vote remains in doubt.
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, a key Democratic negotiator, said if Republicans block the vote with a filibuster “that’s a problem. Hopefully, people will be smarter than that.”
Biden also used his Monday remarks to push back against Republican critics of his plans who argue massive federal investments in the economy will accelerate inflation.
Consumer prices climbed 5.4% for the year that ended in June, the highest annual increase since August 2008. Higher inflation can erode the wages of workers and ultimately hurt economic growth.
Biden said Monday that his proposed investments would help rebuild U.S. supply chains and ease pressures on U.S. production that some economists say have contributed to inflation.
“If we make prudent, multi-year investments in better roads, bridges, transit systems and high speed internet, a modern resilient electric grid, here’s what will happen: It breaks up the bottlenecks in our economy,” he said.
“These steps will enhance our productivity, raising wages without raising prices. That won’t increase inflation, it’ll take the pressure off of inflation,” Biden added.