What to Know in Washington: Biden Jobs Plan Squeezed in Congress

President Joe Biden laid out what he called a “bold” plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure, but now needs an equally ambitious effort to wrangle it through Congress in the face of Republican opposition and criticism from within his Democratic Party.

Biden, in a speech yesterday in Pittsburgh, invoked the great public investments of the past — the transcontinental railroad, the interstate highway system and the space program — to sell his idea to spend $2.25 trillion over eight years on a menu of projects, from bolstering the electrical grid to upgrading childcare facilities.

But illustrating the challenges Biden’s plan faces getting through Congress, it drew quick criticism from Republicans, who said they wanted no part of the corporate tax hikes he proposes to pay for it. Some progressive Democrats, meanwhile, said it would not spend nearly enough.

The competing pressures mean Biden’s proposal likely will have to be broken up into two or even three pieces of legislation that may ultimately differ significantly from the administration’s plan. Some parts will need Republican support to make it through the Senate, while other provisions may be put into fast-track budget bills that need only Democratic votes to pass.

Biden held out hope for bringing at least some Republicans on board, calling Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the day before his speech to brief him on the proposal. But he made little headway.

McConnell labeled Biden’s plan a “Trojan horse” for tax hikes and liberal social policy changes that Republicans want no part of. “This is not a very bipartisan period we’re in right now,” McConnell said yesterday at an event in Kentucky. Read more from Erik Wasson, Laura Litvan, Billy House and Jennifer Epstein.

BGOV OnPoint:Biden Unveils $2.25 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg
Biden steps off Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on Wednesday.

Biden Targets Aid for Workers: Biden is aiming to boost popular support for his infrastructure plan by including proposals to help workers and protect unions. Biden’s plan calls for $100 billion for workforce training programs, including services for dislocated workers—the first proposal that spends serious money on such programs since the pandemic-linked economic downturn. The White House is also seeking to double the number of registered apprenticeships.

The plan would also require businesses benefiting from an infusion of infrastructure funds to pay prevailing wages and stay neutral in union organizing efforts. And it called on lawmakers to incorporate a bill that would strengthen workers’ ability to form unions and win contracts. “I support unions,” Biden said in Pittsburgh. “They built the middle class and it’s about time they got a piece of the action.” Read more from Andrew Kreighbaum and Ian Kullgren.

Gun Violence Prevention Woven Into Infrastructure Plan: Tucked into Biden‘s proposal is an item to satisfy a longstanding priority of gun violence prevention advocates: $5 billion for violence prevention programs. The funds, which would be spent over eight years, would mark a boost to federal spending against gun violence prevention if added to the Justice Department’s existing efforts. A U.S. official confirmed yesterday the proposal is targeted at gun violence prevention. Read more from Courtney Rozen.

Carbon Capture Backers Thrilled With Biden Plan: Proponents of subsidies for technologies that capture and store CO2 rejoiced yesterday after Biden’s White House signaled support for allowing developers to get cash in lieu of tax offsets. Under current law, tax credits for carbon capture—a technology embraced by oil and gas corporations and also seen by proponents as a partial solution to global climate change—are generally transferred to financiers with taxes to offset. Read more from Lydia O’Neal and Dean Scott.

  • But for climate progressives further to the left, the plan doesn’t go far enough. “Today I find myself caught between two truths,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the youth climate activist group the Sunrise Movement. “This infrastructure plan is a historic step forward that would not have been possible without us,” she said, referring to fellow advocates of the Green New Deal. And yet, “so much more is needed.” Read more from Leslie Kaufman and Brian Eckhouse.

Biden’s Surprise Boost for Oil Involves Asphalt: Biden, who made clean energy a core tenet of his campaign, plans to set off one more oil-sector boom before shadows descend on fossil fuels. In the infrastructure blueprint, the biggest benefit for oil explorers and refiners would come from the expected jump in demand for asphalt to repair crumbling highways and pave new ones. Because asphalt is derived from the heaviest and most-dense material in a barrel of crude, Canada’s oil-sands producers may be the biggest winners, given their status as the source of some of the globe’s thickest petroleum. Read more from David Wethe.

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars

Asian Lawmakers Rally Support for Hate Crimes Bills: House lawmakers are trying to build support for Asian-American hate crime legislation in the wake of a rash of incidents related to the coronavirus and the recent Atlanta spa shootings where six of the eight people killed were Asian women. After the shootings, Biden called for lawmakers to pass hate crimes legislation while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed to bring the bill to the floor when Congress returns. The bill to bolster the reporting of hate crimes will be marked up April 14 by the Judiciary Committee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a roundtable event yesterday with San Franciscan Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Read more from Emily Wilkins.

Democrats Target Five Trump Rules: Democrats are being selective in using a law that lets them ax rules issued during the waning days of President Donald Trump‘s administration, Courtney Rozen reports. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to repeal regulations through legislation that can’t be filibustered in the Senate. Success typically requires one-party control both chambers of Congress and the White House, as happened when Trump took office in 2017. That year, Trump and Republican legislators used the law to repeal more than a dozen Obama-era regulations.

Congress Weighs China, Chip Proposal: Republicans in Congress say they’re willing to work with Schumer to counter China’s economic clout and address a global shortage of semiconductors, but the price tag of a Democratic-led proposal may drive away GOP support. Schumer and Republicans have been discussing proposals to fund semiconductor research and development, as well as science and technology to compete with the government subsidies that Beijing offers its companies. Yet Republicans have been wary that the final proposal could end up costing a lot more than anticipated. Read more from Jenny Leonard and Daniel Flatley.

Elections & Influence

Zoom Lobbying May Outlast Covid: With signs the pandemic may be ebbing, advocacy groups are reassessing how to handle traditional fly-in events when members descend on Capitol Hill to buttonhole members. The groups say the pandemic has forced them to innovate and reevaluate the best way to get their message across to congressional offices. Officials with a half-dozen trade associations who spoke with Bloomberg Government said most are already planning to have their legislative advocacy fly-ins be in-person for next year. However, the move by organizations over the last year to video platforms for their lobbying has opened up possibilities for them to expand their influence activities. Read more from Megan R. Wilson.

N.M. Democrats Pick House Nominee: New Mexico Democratic officials yesterday selected state Rep. Melanie Stansbury as their nominee in a June 1 special election in the 1st congressional district, Greg Giroux reports. Stansbury defeated state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez by 103 votes to 97 votes in a runoff election after a first ballot Tuesday produced no majority-vote winner. Stansbury, a former Senate aide with a science background who was endorsed by the Sierra Club and the pro-science group 314 Action Fund, will face Republican state Sen. Mark Moores in an Albuquerque-based district where Biden won 60% of the vote in the 2020 election. Deb Haaland vacated the 1st District last month to become Biden’s interior secretary.

Hart Drops Challenge of Six-Vote Defeat: Democrat Rita Hart dropped her challenge of a close Iowa election yesterday after Republicans escalated their complaints that a House investigation of the contest showed Democrats’ inconsistency on election integrity. “Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans,” Hart said in a statement. Hart said she wished her opponent Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) well and thanked supporters but didn’t specify her future plans beyond continuing to work “to make Iowa a better place for all.” Read more from Kenneth P. Doyle.

Sunday Phone Calls Mobilized Black Business Elite on Vote Rights: Some 72 Black executives found themselves in recent days facing a unique moment — an opportunity to emerge from the comfort of executive suites, boardrooms, and inner sanctums of Wall Street, and take a stand on an issue that they say greatly impacts all Americans, especially those of color.

This new Black power began to take shape Sunday. Three days earlier, the Georgia state legislature had passed a sweeping GOP-backed voting rights bill, which critics say seeks to disenfranchise Black voters by making it more difficult to participate in elections. On Sunday, Ken Chenault, the former longtime chief executive officer of American Express spoke by phone with Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of drugmaker Merck & Co. The two began to sketch out a plan to write an open letter addressed directly to “Corporate America,” demanding it publicly oppose discriminatory measures designed to limit Americans’ ability to vote. Read more from Brett Pulley, Carolina Gonzalez and Riley Griffin.

Around the Administration

Biden Holds Cabinet Meeting: Biden will hold the first Cabinet meeting of his administration at 1:15 p.m. at the White House, according to the daily schedule.

Biden Seeks More Time on Releasing Trump Taxes: The Biden administration again asked a federal judge for another month to decide whether to hand former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to Congress. In a court filing, the Treasury Department said it is still weighing how it’ll respond to a subpoena by House Democrats asking for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden later granted the extension to April 30. Read more from David Yaffe-Bellany.

U.S. Seeks Iran Negotiations Through Allies: Secretary of State Antony Blinken is discussing options with European allies to revive the Iran nuclear accord “through a series of initial and mutual steps,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said yesterday. Blinken has explored the possibilities with the U.S. allies during meetings in Brussels last week, Price said, adding that the U.S. is still committed to a joint return to the multinational nuclear agreement that Trump abandoned. Read more from David Wainer.

U.S. Launches Cyber ‘Sprints’: The Homeland Security Department is undertaking a series of “sprints” to enhance American cybersecurity in the wake of major attacks against the federal government. Each 60-day sprint will focus on “the most important and most urgent priorities needed to achieve our goals,” Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at an online event yesterday. The initiatives will focus on fighting ransomware, improving the resilience of industrial control systems, protecting transportation and election security, and furthering international capacity building. Read more from Alyza Sebenius and Shaun Courtney.

HHS Doubles ACA Ad Spending After Boost: The Biden administration will spend $50 million to promote new Obamacare subsidies made available through the latest pandemic relief law, doubling the amount it’s put toward encouraging people to sign up for health-care coverage. The new subsidies, which are available for the first time to those with incomes above 400% of the federal poverty level, means an average of four out of five customers will be able to buy a plan for $10 or less per month, the HHS said in a statement announcing the new ad campaign, which will begin today. Read more from Sara Hansard.

Biden Says Texas Ballclub Making Mistake With Full Capacity Plan: Biden called it “a mistake” for the Texas Rangers baseball team to allow full attendance at games as the season kicks off while the country continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic. “They should listen to Dr. Fauci and the experts,” Biden said during an ESPN interview broadcast last night, referring to Anthony Fauci, his health adviser and top infectious disease expert. “It is not responsible,” the president added about the move by the team to reopen games to full capacity as many Americans are still waiting to be vaccinated. Read more from Nancy Cook.

J&J Manufacturing Error: A manufacturing error at a plant involved in Covid-19 vaccine production affected 15 million doses worth of an ingredient for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, according to two sources familiar with the matter, though the company downplayed the situation and said it met its most recent vaccine delivery target. Read more from Josh Wingrove, Riley Griffin and Emma Court.

With assistance from Greg Giroux

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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