The bipartisan infrastructure deal that Senate Democrats, Republicans, and President Joe Biden agreed on last week looks like it may already be in danger. With Democratic leadership promising to link the bipartisan bill to a larger reconciliation bill that includes more progressive priorities and tax hikes on the rich, and Republicans threatening to back out if Democrats pair the two bills together, there’s a lot to keep track of. Here’s what you need to know:
The bipartisan infrastructure bill that was announced last week is not good enough for Democrats to accept passing it alone. $600 billion in new spending for infrastructure is a good thing, but it is not good enough for Democrats to throw away all of their other priorities to get it done, especially when you consider how it’s paid for.
Aside from allocating more money to the IRS enforcement budget to target wealthy individuals and corporations who evade taxes, most of the pay-fors in the bipartisan bill are mediocre at best, and in many cases just plain bad.
Instead of raising taxes on corporations or billionaires, this bill would sell off pieces of our current infrastructure to private companies in order to pay for new infrastructure, leaving critical infrastructure like roads, bridges, and ports in the hands of companies that are going to pass along the cost to the people using that infrastructure. This practice, called “asset recycling” has been an expensive disaster anywhere it’s been used – from all over Australia to parking meters in Chicago – that leads to high costs for normal people. Public private partnerships end up the same, with our infrastructure controlled by private companies that pass along the costs to the American people.
Needless to say, this is not an amazing bill. Standing alone, there is not much reason to support it. The real value it has in our eyes is to convince moderate Democrats in the Senate to support a much larger and more ambitious reconciliation bill that includes significant tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations. The wellbeing of our economy and democracy as a whole, depends on it.
If this is the price Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are going to ask for in return for their votes on a bigger reconciliation bill, then that’s fine, but it would be unacceptable to only move forward with this wildly underwhelming bipartisan bill. Republicans are now demanding that Democrats not pass a reconciliation bill, and essentially put every aspect of their agenda on hold, in exchange for Republican support for the bipartisan bill. It’s a ridiculous demand and should not be taken seriously.
Senate Republicans don’t get to hold the entire country’s legislative process hostage in exchange for this infrastructure bill. If they won’t play ball, then Dems should just put infrastructure funding into the reconciliation bill and pass it that way with much better pay-fors. President Biden and Democrats in the Senate must stand strong on this – they cannot put their entire agenda on hold to protect an underwhelming compromise. There’s no reason the party with the majority should be completely stymied by the minority, particularly when it comes to passing a reconciliation bill that would be full of wildly popular policies like tax increases on corporations and the rich.