The Biden administration is working on its next legislative push, billed as an infrastructure package but with much broader impact, which would cost between $3-4 trillion.
The push comes after the White House and Democrats in Congress passed along partisan lines a $1.9 trillion COVID aid package, dubbed a “Trojan horse” by Republicans, that directed billions toward Democratic spending priorities. Democrats in the Senate were able to push the legislation through without GOP support because of a process called reconciliation, which scraps the 60-vote filibuster for bills on taxes and spending.
Biden’s next priority is passing through an even larger spending package, ostensibly on infrastructure though the plan includes many economic and structural changes sought by progressives, piece by piece, according to The New York Times. The plan is to address a number of administration priorities such as climate change, inequality, inequity, and racism. The package is estimated to cost $3 trillion, but could easily go as high as $4 trillion with additional tax credits and incentives.
According to the Times:
Just how to approach the legislative strategy is still under discussion given the size of the proposal and the thin majority that Democrats hold in the House and the Senate.
Mr. Biden’s advisers plan to recommend that the effort be broken into pieces, with Congress tackling infrastructure before turning to a second package that would include more people-focused proposals, like free community college, universal prekindergarten and a national paid leave program.
Democrats will only have one more chance to use reconciliation this year and avoid a 60-vote filibuster that would force them to work with Republicans in the Senate. Breaking the package into multiple bills likely means Democrats would have to pass much tamer legislation or use the nuclear option on the Senate filibuster, a move being championed by many Democratic lawmakers.
Biden’s game plan for his infrastructure package contradicts his earlier claims against scrapping the 60-vote filibuster, Last week, the president said he supported a return to the “talking filibuster” which would force senators to hold the floor for hours to block a vote on a bill.
In the 50-50 Senate, Democratic moderates such as Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have protected the filibuster rule. Democratic Party leaders are looking to midterms to extend their slim majority and break the moderate blockade of the filibuster in the future. Ending the filibuster has become a “litmus test” for Democratic Senate candidates in 2022, according to Politico.
“I would be surprised if there’s anyone in any of these [competitive] states … that would support maintaining the filibuster,” Democratic Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is planning to run for Senate next year, told Politico. “Getting rid of the filibuster is as close to a litmus test for our party as I can describe.”