Joe Biden is facing democratic tensions over the infrastructure package


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Joe Biden is facing increasing pressure from both sides of the Democratic Party as the US president negotiates his A $ 2.3 billion infrastructure package, between moderates who want to reach an agreement with Republicans and progressives who encourage him to move away from the negotiating table.

Pulling the ropes among Democrats on Capitol Hill could prove to Baiden problematic as he will soon have to make a decision that satisfies one side of his political base but disappoints the other in a key element of his economic agenda.

Biden initially proposed an ambitious $ 2.3 billion infrastructure package funded mainly by a profit tax rate – and then last week, after several rounds of talks with Republicans, reduced his target to $ 1.7 billion. Republicans initially proposed a $ 568 billion plan, but gradually increased the level of eligible spending. On Thursday, Republican lawmakers led by Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia put on the table a new offer worth only a shy $ 1 billion.

Still, there is a big gap between the two sides – including the fact that they are still Republicans averse to any tax increase to fund the plan and have a much narrower view of what should be classified as infrastructure spending compared to Democrats. Republican senators said Thursday that their $ 928 billion bid will be funded largely from reallocated funds to help Covid.

Biden told reporters Thursday that he had spoken to Capit and would meet with Republican negotiators next week. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that while the latest counter-proposal is “encouraging”, Democrats “remain concerned” about the size of the plan and how Republicans intend to pay for it.

Many Democrats, including the Progressives, are urging Biden to give up negotiations with Republicans and move quickly toward adopting a White House plan using their very thin majority on Capitol Hill.

“I’m for bipartisanship, but if Republicans aren’t serious partners, we have to act without them,” Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley said on Twitter this week. “We need clean energy, affordable broadband and housing, good roads and good jobs to be competitive in the 21st century.”

In a sign of growing unrest on the left, Merkley joined Bernie Sanders and fellow leftists in calling for Biden to move quickly to the president’s second major economic point – a $ 1.8 billion tax-paid social spending plan increases for the wealthy. “This human infrastructure cannot be secondary to the needs of the physical infrastructure nor will it interfere with Republican obstructionism,” they wrote.

The Progressive Sunrise Movement responded to Thursday’s latest Republican offer by urging Democrats to “use the power given to them by voters to do what is needed with or without the GOP”.

But the push from the left is opposed by the continued efforts of moderate Democrats to reach an agreement with Republicans.

Tom Carper, a Democratic senator from Delaware and an ally of Biden, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday: “I think maybe we should let this play out a little bit more. . . I’m not particularly prepared to say how long, but a little longer. ”

Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate whose support is considered crucial in the upper council, which is divided between 50 and 50 Democrats and Republicans, made a similar argument. This week, he joined Mitt Romney, a Republican senator from Utah, Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, and a small group of bipartisan lawmakers to negotiate an alternative compromise.

“We have a group of eight of us, four Democrats and four Republicans, who have gathered around what we would spend and what the salary would be,” Romney said. “But we are in second place. . . the front burner is Shelley Moore Capito and the White House negotiations, and our business would only be interesting if it doesn’t continue. “

The president, who has served in the upper house of Congress for more than three decades and campaigned through political passages, has long said he wants to reach a bilateral agreement instead of pushing through a tax and spending plan with only democratic support using a Senate budget process called reconciliation.

But Biden and his team also learned hard lessons from the Barack Obama presidency, when their signature health care reform bill was stalled for weeks as they tried in vain to negotiate a deal with Republicans. Over time, the plan became less and less popular and its resistance hardened on Capitol Hill and across the country.

Yet while patience among progressive Democrats is rapidly running out, moderates still find it comfortable in extended conversations.

At the Financial Times event on Tuesday, Manchin said he wanted an “open and fair” process involving politicians from both parties – and suggested he was willing to wait months for that to happen, even next year.

“We have this Congress, the 117th Congress,” said the senator from West Virginia, referring to the current two-year legislative session ending next year. “I’d like to do it safely before the end of the 117th Congress.”

Republicans, meanwhile, said they were confident Manchin and other moderate Democrats were more likely to support their extreme proposals than a larger infrastructure package.

“[The White House’s] the challenge is obviously how much I can do with 50 Democrats, ”Roy Blunt, a Republican senator from Missouri, told reporters Thursday at Capitol Hill. “I guess it’s easier to get 15 or 20 or more Republicans here. . . on the right infrastructure package than it could be for the last three Democrats to get a package that could contain anything. “

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