by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The White House’s decision to push twin sprawling infrastructure packages is complicating its pathway to passage and the Biden administration’s messaging strategy.
President Joe Biden unveiled his monster $2.25 trillion “American Jobs Plan” in Pittsburgh Wednesday, along with a corporate tax hike framework as administration officials said another massive spending bill would soon follow.
But the White House’s decision to divide the packages, bundled together as part of the “Build Back Better” infrastructure platform on which Biden campaigned, so far is confusing lawmakers, lobbyists, and experts alike. The president’s generous “infrastructure” definition not only means he has plenty of what Republicans see as poison pill spending but also a tougher pitch to voters.
The White House’s bifurcated approach to infrastructure amounts to “new territory,” according to Michele Nellenbach, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s strategic initiatives vice president.
Biden’s second package, marketed as his “American Families Plan,” is better described as the president’s social agenda, she said. But even his first proposal, the “American Jobs Plan,” veers out of the traditional infrastructure policy lane, with its investments in research and development and workforce measures.
Nellenbach predicted the second package would be harder for Congress to pass, given indications it will be laden with policy priorities Republicans oppose, such as lowering the Medicare eligibility age, free community college, and universal pre-kindergarten. Assumptions the plans were split to silo more divisive liberal policies from more traditional infrastructure ones so at least one of the proposals could become law are “probably right,” she said.
“Although Congress is on its own path, so it’s not clear to me how exactly they incorporate what the administration is proposing,” she told the Washington Examiner. “What isn’t clear is what the Republicans do when you get into the pay-for conversation, and how expansive do those conversations become?”