The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Infrastructure

President Joe Biden

Photo from official @POTUS Twitter

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A day after Senate Republicans blocked debate on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, a new poll shows about two-thirds of American voters back the framework.

On Thursday, Navigator Research released a survey of 1,000 registered voters, finding 66 percent supported the plan — agreed upon in June by President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators — which would invest $579 billion in transportation, broadband, and water system infrastructure. That framework was backed by 86 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents, and a 46 percent plurality of Republicans.

Although 11 Republican senators agreed on the outlines of a deal in June, every single one of them — and the entire GOP caucus — voted on Wednesday to filibuster a motion to start debate on the bill. Because the motion required a three-fifths supermajority vote, the Democratic majority was stymied in its attempt to even take the plan up for consideration. Attempts to salvage an agreement are ongoing.

So far, Republicans have been unable to reach an agreement on how to pay for the plan. A key funding source in their original framework — expanding Internal Revenue Service enforcement to crack down on rich tax dodgers who underpay what they owe — had to be abandoned due to pushback from GOP senators who did not want to give more money to the understaffed agency.

But the Navigator poll showed that this approach is also quite popular.

Asked if they "support or oppose increasing funding for the IRS by $80 billion to crack down on wealthy tax cheats" — an increase that is double the $40 billion in the original bipartisan agreement — 61 percent of respondents said they supported the idea. Just 25 percent were opposed. Democrats backed it 80 percent --8 percent, and independents supported it 55 percent --26 percent. Republicans were almost evenly split, 42 percent for, 44 percent against.

When told that such an investment "could bring in up to $700 billion in tax revenue over the next decade," support increased to 66 percent --21 percent overall — with 85 percent --7 percent among Democrats, and 60 percent -- 20 percent among independents. Even a plurality of Republicans backed the idea, 46 percent -- 36 percent.

Democratic lawmakers and the president are pushing to fund some of the policies that were forced out of the bipartisan infrastructure plan through separate legislation.

Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan — passed in March without a single Republican vote — already contained a major 2021 expansion of the child tax credit. Thanks to those provisions, 92 percent of families with children will receive some savings. For millions of families, it also meant monthly payments, beginning on July 15.

Biden proposed an extension in his American Families Plan — much of which is expected to be included in a Democratic "human infrastructure" bill. But with unanimous GOP opposition, it would likely have to be passed through the budget reconciliation process, or by simple majority, without any GOP votes.

The poll found the child tax credit is supported by 56 percent of voters and opposed by 30 percent.

When told that "more than 90 percent of U.S. households with children are eligible" to receive the credit, overall support climbed to 63 percent to 28 percent. That included 82 percent -- 13 percent Democratic support and 61 percent -- 26 percent independent support. Republicans barely opposed it, 44 percent -- 45 percent.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Sen. Lindsey Graham

Photo by U.S. Department of State (Public domain)

Reprinted with permission from American independent

Senate Republicans used the filibuster rule on Wednesday to block consideration of a bipartisan infrastructure deal — weeks after several of them endorsed the $579 billion package.

Every member of the Democratic Senate majority backed beginning consideration of H.R. 3684, a procedural step needed to debate and pass the bipartisan framework, but because Senate rules require a three-fifths supermajority for this type of legislation, the Republican minority was able to block it.

President Joe Biden proposed a $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan in March, asking Congress to improve the nation's transportation, water systems, broadband, clean energy, climate change, and caregiving infrastructure.

On June 16, after lengthy negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators agreedon a deal, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, to invest $579 billion in "core infrastructure" programs only, including transportation, broadband, and water systems.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), Mitt Romney (UT), Mike Rounds (SD), Thom Tillis (NC), and Todd Young (IN) all signed onto a joint statement with 10 members of the Democratic majority, affirming their support for the deal.

"We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation's core infrastructure needs without raising taxes," the statement read. "We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to develop legislation based on this framework to address America's critical infrastructure challenges."

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) endorsed the plan later that day.

On June 24, Biden signed on to the bipartisan plan and has been urging its passage since.

"We should be united on one thing: passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, which we shook hands on," he said on Monday. "We shook hands on it."

But not long after the agreement, some Republicans began to have second thoughts.

Some objected to acknowledgements by Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress that they would later try to pass some of their other priorities — including the omitted climate change, child care, and caregiving "human infrastructure" provisions — through a separate budget reconciliation process, without any GOP support. Graham complained that this plan amounted to extortion.

They then abandoned one of the key provisions that financed the bipartisan agreement: a crackdown on wealthy tax dodgers who are not currently paying their fair share. Portman said Sunday that they had dropped the provision due to "pushback" from Republican senators who did not want to give more money to the understaffed Internal Revenue Service to enforce the tax code.

Again, Graham protested the deal he'd backed, telling Axios on June 30, "There's some people on our side who don't like empowering the IRS; I don't mind empowering the IRS if it's a reasonable thing to do. But I mean, how much uncollected taxes can you gather with $40 billion?"

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved to bring up the framework on Wednesday as a way to speed up the bill writing process. "I understand that both sides are working very hard to turn the bipartisan infrastructure framework into final legislation, and they will continue to have more time to debate, amend and perfect the bill once the Senate votes to take up this crucial issue," the New York Democrat explained to colleagues on Monday. "But they have been working on this bipartisan framework for more than a month already, and it's time to begin the debate."

Republicans said they were not ready to move forward.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune — who memorably ran for his seat in 2004 by lambasting the Democratic incumbent for using his position "to slow down, to obstruct, to stop" then-President George W. Bush's agenda — opposed even beginning debate on the bipartisan infrastructure framework. "I can't say we will have every Republican, but he [Schumer] is not going to get 60," he vowed Monday.

On Wednesday, all of the 11 Republican backers who supported the bipartisan deal previously — along with the rest of the Republican minority — voted against debate on the matter.

Schumer voted "no" as well, for procedural reasons.

"At the end of the vote, I changed my response [from a yes] to a no so that I may move to reconsider this vote at a future time," the majority leader explained, moments after the vote failed, 49 to 51.

Due to Schumer's last-second maneuver, the Senate is still able to reconsider the vote in the future. Alternately, the Democratic majority could simply add the provisions to a budget reconciliation package and pass it with a simple majority, if they can remain united.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.