June 25, 2021

Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

“President Joe Biden announced on Thursday a hard-earned bipartisan agreement on a pared-down infrastructure plan… [he] said that other White House priorities would be taken on separately in a congressional budget process known as reconciliation, which allows for majority passage without the need for Republican votes. He insisted that the two items would be done ‘in tandem’ and that he would not sign the bipartisan deal without the other, bigger piece.” AP News

Here’s our coverage of Biden’s original infrastructure plan. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left worries that the bipartisan deal is not sufficiently large and urges Democrats to pass additional progressive priorities through reconciliation.

“When Joe Biden would talk on the 2020 campaign trail about the need to rekindle bipartisanship in Washington and his unique ability derived from decades in the Senate to make it happen, there were lots of eye rolls. It felt to many (myself included) like a bit of nostalgia on Biden's part, nostalgia based on a fundamental misunderstanding of How Politics Works, or, more accurately, doesn't work. Maybe in the 1970s bipartisanship was possible, we all said. But that was 50 years ago. Then Biden proved us wrong… The bipartisan compromise on infrastructure is, to borrow a famous/infamous Biden-ism, a ‘big [expletive] deal’ for his presidency.”
Chris Cillizza, CNN

“There is much to like in the framework hammered out by five senators from each party’s caucus, who were negotiating on behalf of a bipartisan cohort of 21 senators. By the White House’s estimate, the deal would provide about two-thirds of the roughly $900 billion Biden requested for such things as highways, mass transit and Amtrak, along with an assortment of infrastructure investments not usually funded by the federal government, such as broadband networks, new (lead-free) water pipes for schools and electric vehicle charging stations…

What’s missing, though, are the major investments Biden proposed in research and innovation, particularly in hastening the development of clean-energy facilities and training people for clean-energy jobs. There are nods to the damage already caused by climate change, but we need more than small gestures at this point — we need transformative ones… Democrats intend to put many of the items dropped from the president’s initial proposal, along with elements of Biden’s $1.8-trillion American Families Plan, into a budget reconciliation bill that cannot be filibustered… So it’s best to think of the bipartisan proposal as a first act in a longer play.”
Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

Critics of the bipartisan proposal note that only “14 percent of the infrastructure package is being dedicated to environmentally aligned projects, with electric cars and grid modernization, though those are the least ambitious parts of the environmental program—no major expansion of public transit, no major renewable-power generation programs… Biden and the senators are choosing to pursue the one method of doing infrastructure that would make the climate crisis worse, propping up freeways and oil- and gas-powered grids rather than building new, green infrastructure. Their deal is a half-step forward and multiple steps back.”
Alexander Sammon, American Prospect

“More progressive Democrats in the House and Senate naturally fear that once the meager bipartisan package passes, moderates will refuse to pass anything else. Therefore on Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi promised she will not pass the bipartisan deal unless the reconciliation bill gets out of the Senate first, and that afternoon Biden promised the same thing. That way there would be no possibility of Senate moderates backtracking at the last second…

It is crunch time for the Democrats. Doing something big on infrastructure that tackles climate change is co-equal with voting rights protections in terms of vital priorities. This plan could theoretically work, and party leaders seem confident it can happen. But the margin for error is small — just one defection in the Senate, and the whole thing falls apart.”
Ryan Cooper, The Week

“The world order ushered in during the late 1970s and early 1980s involved the destruction of the capacity to govern; the deregulation of finance as well as a hands-off approach to corporate concentration; the crushing of organized labor; and the privatization of public assets, all of it fueling runaway wealth and income inequality, driving millions into poverty, and eroding civic and democratic norms. Upending that order requires a reassertion of the public’s role in the economy. It requires a government willing and able to govern… There is broad recognition within the party that Democrats are likely to lose one or both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections and that 2022 is unlikely to yield significant legislative opportunities. It’s now or never.”
Ryan Grim, The Intercept

From the Right

The right is critical of the bipartisan deal, arguing that there is no point in compromise if Democrats will simply pass any progressive priorities that are not in the deal through reconciliation.

The right is critical of the bipartisan deal, arguing that there is no point in compromise if Democrats will simply pass any progressive priorities that are not in the deal through reconciliation.

“Mr. Biden stood with five Democratic and five Republican Senators at the White House and endorsed their trillion-dollar infrastructure outline. Back-slapping and self-plaudits all around. But two hours later the President said he won’t sign the infrastructure bill unless the Senate also passes the other $3 trillion or more he has proposed in tax increases and multiple new entitlement programs…

Most politicians at least wait a decent interval to pull a double cross. But Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden are trying to prevent a revolt on the left. So they are now holding a bipartisan deal hostage to the left’s demands. This is political blackmail aimed at Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who are part of the bipartisan Senate Gang of 10: Unless they sign on to all of the progressive tax-and-spend agenda, they won’t get their bipartisan deal… This is remarkable bad faith even for Washington.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

This entire process is a charade. Democrats have made their plans very clear. They want to move the bipartisan plan through the Senate on a parallel track with a reconciliation bill stuffed with liberal wish-list items that will be rammed through on a pure party-line basis…

“Given that Democrats are treating the two bills as a package deal, why should Republicans view them any other way? Biden is not in fact giving up any ground by signing on to some provisions with Republicans if he’s going to get everything he wants anyway via a partisan parliamentary maneuver. All that Republicans would be giving Biden would be the veneer of bipartisan cover. Imagine if, in 2017, Donald Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell announced a bipartisan deal with Democrats on some tax-reform provisions they agreed with, then passed the rest of the Republican tax bill anyway and called it bipartisan tax reform. It would be viewed as absurd, and rightly so. Such is the case this time around.”
The Editors, National Review

“[Senator] Manchin is likely to resist the kind of massive spending package Biden wants. But left to his own devices, I doubt he can be counted on to resist adding another trillion or two to the agreed upon package. I wonder, though, whether ten GOP Senators are truly committed to voting for the ‘compromise’ with the threat of reconciliation looming. It’s one thing to vote for the agreed upon, mostly infrastructure package standing alone. But why can’t they follow Pelosi’s approach and say, ‘there ain’t no infrastructure bill with a reconciliation bill’?…

“Similarly but alternatively, they could say, ‘there ain’t no infrastructure bill because Biden and Pelosi are insisting on a reconciliation bill on top of it.’ However… Schumer can enact the infrastructure bill as part of a larger reconciliation package without any GOP support…

“In the end, anyway you slice the thing it comes down to what Joe Manchin wants. What does he want? infrastructure legislation on a bipartisan basis, I think. Thus, the best option might be to extract a firm commitment from Manchin and/or Krysten Sinema not to support reconciliation on top of the compromise bill — or at least not to take reconciliation very far.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“The whole initiative is flawed. America’s infrastructure can certainly use some upgrades, but Washington is throwing money at infrastructure without reforming its status among the world’s most expensive, bureaucratic, and slowly built. The Congressional Budget Office found that federal investments deliver returns averaging just 5 percent — compared to 10 percent for the private sector. The inflation-adjusted cost of interstate construction spending per mile quadrupled from 1960 through 1990, and has continued to grow since then…

“The environmental impact statements required for large projects commonly exceed 1,000 pages and require on average seven years to complete (compared to no more than one to two years in Canada and 3.5 years in the European Union), and sometimes as long as 17 years. How about addressing these costs and delays and ensuring our tax dollars are spent effectively?”
Brian Riedl, New York Post

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