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White House may attempt to advance $2 trillion infrastructure package without GOP votes

Ron Klain is President Biden's chief of staff.
Ron Klain is President Biden's chief of staff.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — White House chief of staff Ron Klain on Thursday suggested that the administration is willing to advance its $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan with no Republican support, setting the stage for another bruising spending battle in Washington.

While stressing the White House hopes to secure GOP support, Klain signaled that the administration is willing to use the Democrats’ narrow majorities in the House and the Senate to approve legislation aimed at rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and confronting climate change.

Republicans have balked at Biden’s sprawling initiative since its introduction on Wednesday, leveling particularly fierce criticism at proposed tax hikes on businesses that would reverse much of their 2017 tax law.

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’'Let’s work together, and see if there’s a way for us to deliver this,’' Klain told Politico. ’'In the end, let me be clear, the president was elected to do a job. And part of that job is to get this country ready to win the future. That’s what he’s going to do. We intend to deliver.’'

Lawmakers of both major political parties have traditionally supported infrastructure investments, but Republicans have never backed the extent of clean energy policies or tax hikes Biden’s new plan entails. If Republicans unify in opposing the measure, Democrats could pass it through the Senate with their narrow majority through a parliamentary procedure called budget reconciliation that allows them to avoid the 60-vote threshold necessary to end a filibuster. The 100-seat Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and lawmakers who caucus with Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tiebreaking vote.

The comments from Biden’s chief of staff mark the beginning of the legislative wrangling expected to ensue for months over the White House’s major domestic policy initiative. Biden’s American Jobs Plan would devote more than $600 billion to physical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and highways; about $400 billion to clean-energy credits; more than $200 billion to housing; and hundreds of billions to fixing the nation’s electric grid, high-speed broadband, and lead water pipes.

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Congressional Republicans have panned the White House plan, saying it is full of wasteful spending and would be damaging to American businesses. Biden’s proposal would raise at least $2 trillion in taxes, by increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent and bringing the global minimum tax to 21 percent, among other increases.

Speaking in Kentucky on Thursday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, criticized the proposed tax increases as a ’'big mistake.’' While GOP lawmakers support infrastructure investments, McConnell said, Congress can’t afford to ’'whack the economy with major tax increases or run up the national debt even more.’'

’'That package they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side,’' he said.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, similarly criticized the president’s infrastructure proposal as a ’'clear attempt to transform the economy by advancing progressive priorities in an unprecedented way.’'

’'The proposal would aggressively drive down the use of traditional energy resources and eliminate good-paying jobs in West Virginia and across the country,’' she added in a statement. ’'Perhaps worst of all, it would burden the American economy with tax increases as our country attempts to recover from economic hardship.’'

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During the debate over the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, Biden and other White House officials rankled congressional Republicans by saying the plan was bipartisan because it had support among GOP voters. No Republican in either the House or Senate supported it. Klain suggested reprising a similar argument over the infrastructure plan.

’'We know it has bipartisan support in the country, so we’ll try our best to get bipartisan support in Washington,’' Klain said. He added: ’'You can go any given week to any Rotary Club in America and find elected leaders at every level of government’' who support replacing lead pipes and rebuilding other infrastructure.

During his speech in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Biden said he would invite Republicans to the Oval Office to discuss the measure and be open to their ideas as part of a ’'good-faith negotiation.’'

’'There’s no reason why it can’t be bipartisan again,’' Biden said, citing GOP support for other infrastructure measures. ’'But we have to get it done.’'