Virginia Democrat Senator has ‘concerns’ about Biden $2.3tn infrastructure package

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Virginia Democrat Senator has ‘concerns’ about Biden $2.3tn infrastructure package

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner has raised concerns with the White House and demanded more 'input' into President Joe Biden's infrastructure package – eve

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Democratic Sen. Mark Warner has raised concerns with the White House and demanded more ‘input’ into President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package – even as fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin threatened to hold up the $2.3 trillion plan. 

The former governor who made millions as a venture capitalist before being elected to the Senate also notably is not commenting on Biden’s proposed hike in the corporate tax rate to 28 per cent. 

Manchin has raised his own concerns about the rate publicly, while signaling a willingness to deal on the numbers. 

‘I’ve had some outreach from the White House, but it was more heads up than input into the development of the package so I’ve already expressed some concerns,’ said Warner. 

‘I expect to have that input before there’s any package I could support,’ he told reporters in the Capitol Monday.  

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he has 'expressed some concerns' with the White House about providing input to President Biden's

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he has ‘expressed some concerns’ with the White House about providing input to President Biden’s 

On Biden’s proposed 28 per cent corporate rate, Warner said: ‘I’m not going to comment on the specifics. I’m going to share those with the White House first.’

The White House is stepping up its efforts to sell the deal, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki touting meetings with lawmakers at the White House as well as staff contacts to advance it. Lawmakers are at home in their states and districts for a spring recess period. 

There was a key development Monday when Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s office said the Senate Parliamentarian had given the green light to revising the budget resolution – to allow for one or even two additional ‘reconciliation’ bills.

This provides Democrats the opportunity to try to move an infrastructure package that would be protected from a likely Republican filibuster. Even so, the scenario would give leverage to any Democratic senator willing to withhold his or her support for the package.  

Manchin threatened in an interview to hold up the package to force changes that would water down his proposed corporate tax hike.

‘As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed,’ said Manchin, who has become a gatekeeper in the 50-50 Senate.

Manchin, who holds the seat once held by Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd hails from a relatively poor state that has benefitted from federal government spending projects over the years, did not say he opposed the infrastructure package. But he did threaten to use his political weight to try to refashion it.  

'If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere': Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) registered his problems with a 28 per cent corporate tax rate and threatened to hold up infrastructure legislation that is a top priority for President Joe Biden

‘If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere’: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) registered his problems with a 28 per cent corporate tax rate and threatened to hold up infrastructure legislation that is a top priority for President Joe Biden

‘If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere,’ he said, in a possible reference to move to proceed to the bill under special instructions that would allow it to move with a simple majority vote.

With Republicans lining up against the bill, Democratic leaders are looking to potentially move the package under an additional budget reconciliation bill. But even that would require them to have all of their members in line – giving leverage to Manchin or any other Democratic senator with misgivings.

‘It’s more than just me, Hoppy,’ he told interviewer  Hoppy Kercheval of West Virginia’s Metro News, the National Review reported. 

‘There’s six or seven other Democrats who feel very strongly about this. We have to be competitive, and we’re not going to throw caution to the wind,’ he said.

Biden wants to raise the corporate rate from its current 21 per cent up to 28 per cent. It dropped from 35 per cent in the 2017 tax cut law signed by President Donald Trump.

Manchin did not come out against any increase in the corporate tax rate, and suggested he could potentially support a 25 per cent rate, which would still be an increase of four percentage points over the current level.

President Biden defended the proposed corporate tax hike on Monday

President Biden defended the proposed corporate tax hike on Monday

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that Biden's proposed rate would be lower than it has been historically since World War II, although it would take away some of the 2017 reduction

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that Biden’s proposed rate would be lower than it has been historically since World War II, although it would take away some of the 2017 reduction

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has vowed to fight Biden's plan 'every step of the way.'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has vowed to fight Biden’s plan ‘every step of the way.’

Manchin’s swipe comes after Republicans hammered the Biden plan for its tax hikes, and a small group of House Democrats threatened to withhold support if the plan does not also raise the $10,000 cap for state and local deductions. 

The White House continued to defend the hike, which it has made a centerpiece of its revenue side, on Monday, even as it said it was early in the process and lawmakers were welcome to offer their own ideas. The tax increases over a period of 15 years would pay for eight years of spending.

‘Our view is that corporations can pay more, not that it should be on the backs of consumers and the American people through user fees, which is exactly what it would be,’ said White House press secretary Jen Psaki when asked about GOP Sen. Roy Blunt’s call to fund infrastructure through user fees.

She said the tax rate the administration was proposing was ‘lower than it was from World War II to 2017.’ 

Biden defended the tax hike at the White House earlier Monday. 

Asked if he was concerns higher taxes might drive away corporations, he said: “Not at all, adding, ‘There’s no evidence of that.’ 

‘You’re talking about companies in the Fortune 500 that haven’t paid a single penny in tax for 3 years. Come on, man,’ he said.

Then he plugged the $2.3 trillion package, which Republicans have slammed for going beyond roads and bridges.   

‘It’s kind of interesting. When the Republicans put forward an infrastructure plan, they thought everything from broadband to other things were worth paying for infrastructure,’ Biden said.

‘When you’re in a situation where you can’t turn on a water fountain in school because the water affects your health, that’s infrastructure. I’m talking about making sure we take asbestos out of schools, that’s infrastructure. I’m talking about building high speed rail, that’s infrastructure. I’m talking about making sure we are in a situation where we can redo federal buildings that are absolutely leaking energy every single day, that’s infrastructure, in addition to roads and bridges and broadband.’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed last week to fight Biden’s plan ‘every step of the way.’ 

What’s inside Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure package

Electric vehicles: $174 billion to boost the markets for electric vehicles. Rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made EVs. 

Included in the plan provided by the White House are grants for governments and private groups to build 500,000 electric vehicle chargers and replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles. 

School buses: Replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify at least 20 percent of yellow school bus fleet. The package touts an Energy Department program called Clean Buses for Kids. It would ‘set us on a path to 100 percent clean buses,’ according to the White House.

Public Transit: Biden calls on Congress to invest $165 billion in public transit. This includes modernizing existing transit and expanding those systems. It would double federal funding for an area that is a top part of state and local budgets. According to the White House it would ‘bring bus, bus rapid transit, and rail service to communities and neighborhoods across the country’ without specifying which ones, and claims it would ‘ultimately reduce traffic congestion for everyone.’ 

Lead pipes: After a campaign where the Flint drinking water fiasco became a top issue for Democrats, the proposal includes $45 billion for a plan to eliminate all lead pipes used in water distribution. The funds would be administered through EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and in Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act grants to localities.

‘Made in America’: ‘Made in America’ provisions on manufacturing and shipping. According to the White House, it will ‘require that goods and materials are made in America and shipped on U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed vessels.’ Similar ‘made in America’ provisions are common on legislation. The White says its plan ‘will ensure that Americans who have endured systemic discrimination and exclusion for generations finally have a fair shot at obtaining good paying jobs and being part of a union.’

Bridge and highway modernization: $115 billion to modernize the bridges, highways, roads, and main streets in ‘critical need’. The White House cites statistics saying 173,000 total miles of highways are in poor condition, along with 45,000 bridges. The plan also calls for funds to repair 10,000 ‘smaller bridges’ that provide ‘critical connections to rural and tribal communities’.

Protect cyclists and pedestrians: Bikes, too, would get a share of the billions. The package includes $20 billion for safety – including funds to ‘reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for cyclists and pedestrians’.

Transit: Biden is calling for $85 billion to modernize existing transit. A Transportation Department figure cites a maintenance backlog of $105 billion, which includes  24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars, 200 stations, plus track and other systems. The infusion, if enacted, would double the current federal funding. 

Amtrak: Biden, a lifetime rail enthusiast who used to commute by train between Wilmington and Washington, would shower $80 billion on Amtrak to modernize the system and improve the Northeast Corridor, which links D.C. to New York and points North. The money would go to fund repairs, boost safety and electrification, and connect new pairs of cities. Grants would ‘support passenger and freight rail safety, efficiency, and electrification.’

Airports: The plan calls for $25 billion for airports, with funds going to the existing Airport Improvement Program. It also calls for upgrades to Federal Aviation Administration assets that ‘ensure safe and efficient air travel,’ with a new program for terminal renovations and connections. 

Waterways: $17 billion for inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries.

Neighborhoods cut off by roads: $20 billion to reconnect neighborhoods cut off by highways and historic investments, plus research on ‘advanced pavements’.

Water restoration: Unspecified investment for ‘the protection and restoration of major land and water resources like Florida’s Everglades and the Great Lakes’.

Broadband: Push for ‘100 percent high-speed broadband coverage’ in the nation. Work with Congress to lower internet prices. The plan says Biden ‘recognizes that individual subsidies to cover internet costs may be needed in the short term,’ but thinks continually providing subsidies ‘is not the right long-term solution.’

Power grid: Build more resilient power system. Targeted investment tax credit to help build out 20 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.

Plug oil wells: Spend $16 billion to plug ‘orphan’ oil and gas wells.

Brownfields: $5 billion for brownfields and Superfund sites.

Industrial clean energy: 15 decarbonized hydrogen demonstration projects to get industry to use clean technology.

Civilian Climate Corps: $10 billion for new Civilian Climate Corps. It’s unclear what this new unit will entail.

Affordable housing: $213 billion to ‘produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live.’ Includes ‘project-based rental assistance.’ $40 billion for public housing infrastructure.

Home energy: $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator for home energy upgrades.

Schools: $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, half through grants and half through bonds.

Community colleges: $12 billion to invest in community college infrastructure.

Child care: $25 billion to upgrade child care facilities.

Veterans: $18 billion for VA hospitals.

Home care: $400 billion toward ‘expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities’.

R&D: $35 billion in R&D investments. Includes $5 billion for climate research

HBCUs: $10 billion for R&D investment at historically black colleges and universities

Pandemics: $30 billion in pandemic counter measures. Includes investments in medical stockpile, testing, and research.

Power sources: $46 billion for charging ports, advanced nuclear reactors and fuel, electric heat pumps for buildings.

Dislocated workers: $40 building for dislocated workers.

Workforce training: Workforce training amid ‘persistent economic inequalities’: $12 billion for workforce development in ‘underserved communities.’ $5 billion for community violence prevention.

Apprenticeships: $48 billion in ‘American workforce development’ including 2 million new apprenticeships.

Enforcement: $10 billion to ensure fair and equal pay, workplace safety, and job sites ‘free from racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination and harassment’.

 

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