The cabinet members tapped by President Joe Biden to sell his new $2 trillion infrastructure plan have begun their outreach to members of Congress, the White House press secretary said Monday, and the president has started holding bipartisan meetings as the administration looks to drum up Republican support for the package.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said that the president is open to hearing ideas from both sides of the aisle about the plan, and that he’s open to tweaking it accordingly.
For now, Republican lawmakers have called the bill a “Trojan horse” for Democratic priorities, since it includes not only proposed funding for things like roads and bridges but also for things such as the in-home care industry, electric vehicles and schools. Many also reject the idea of raising corporate taxes to pay for the improvements.
But the White House already considers support for the American Jobs Plan to be bipartisan, since recent polls showed that a majority of the U.S. like some of the proposed initiatives. It’s the same definition of bipartisan that the administration used to push forward the COVID-19 relief legislation.
“[The president] looks forward to having conversations with members of both parties about how to address the long outdated effort to update our infrastructure,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
President Biden himself has had two bipartisan meetings with lawmakers in the Oval Office, Psaki said, though she declined to name which Republicans participated.
In another push, Biden’s “jobs cabinet” — the members called on to pitch the plan to both the American public and Congress — have already spoken with 56 lawmakers, Psaki said, 28 Republicans and 28 Democrats.
“Infrastructure is not just the roads we get a horse and buggy across,” the press secretary said Monday. “Infrastructure is about broadband, it's about replacing lead pipes so people have water, it's about rebuilding our schools.”
A main sticking point is the proposal to raise corporate taxes from 21% to 28% to pay for the bill. Moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Republicans Monday in saying the number was too high, instead telling a West Virginia Metro News radio show he’d support a 25% tax on corporations.
“We have to be competitive, and we’re not going to throw caution to the wind,” Manchin said.
President Biden defended the idea while traveling back to the White House Monday. Asked whether the higher taxes would hurt the economy, the president said “not at all.”
"You're talking about companies in the Fortune 500 that haven't paid a single penny in tax for three years. Come on man,” he told reporters.
Still, Republican leaders in Congress have promised to make the path to passage difficult.
“I’m going to fight them every step of the way, because I think this is the wrong prescription for America,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in Kentucky last week.
“That package that they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side,” he added.