Politics Why Bernie’s not sweating White House infrastructure dance with GOP
Biden's high-wire act on infrastructure is at a critical moment
President Joe Biden has entered a critical moment where the decisions he makes will dictate the success of his sweeping $4 trillion legislative agenda -- and potentially his first term in office. © Evan Vucci/AP President Joe Biden speaks as he commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, at the Greenwood Cultural Center, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) On its face, that may appear hyperbolic, just four months into Biden's presidency.
As liberals increasingly rebuke President Joe Biden for his ongoing negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators, one prominent progressive lawmaker is staying out of the fray.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the biggest name in national progressive politics, has not expressed concern about clean energy policies not making it into a final infrastructure bill. Nor is he among those loudly criticizing the White House for ongoing talks with GOP lawmakers. That’s because as a group of Republican and Democratic senators are trying to craft a bipartisan deal, Sanders is working in the background, helping jumpstart the next reconciliation package that seems likely to serve as the fallback option. And the text of that bill has yet to be written.
Biden-GOP spending talks hit critical juncture as patience runs thin
President Biden will speak with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Friday afternoon to discuss a potential bipartisan compromise on infrastructure amid signs the talks are nearing their end as both sides remain far apart on key components.Friday's discussion - slated to take place by phone instead of in-person like the previous meetings - comes as the clock is ticking for striking an agreement.Capito, the lead GOP negotiator, and Biden missed an informal Memorial Day deadline to clinch a deal. Democratic lawmakers, who start returning to Washington next week, are now eager to move forward on an infrastructure package, with or without Republicans.
From the beginning, Sanders has said Democrats should forgo rounds of negotiations with Republicans on a smaller, traditional infrastructure bill that addresses roads, bridges, and broadband. Instead, he’s argued that Democrats should immediately push a larger bill along party lines.
The White House has beenwith centrist Democrats and Republicans, leading a growing number of progressive lawmakers in both chambers to of negotiations. This past week a handful of Democratic senators shot off warning tweets at the White House, threatening to for infrastructure bills included in the one expected to pass with only Democrats. But Sanders didn’t join the chorus.
Progressive groups are “fed up” with Biden’s infrastructure playbook
Progressives want Biden to stop negotiating with Republicans and embrace budget reconciliation.Progressive groups, who cheered Biden passing his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill through Congress with only Democratic support early on, are growing increasingly frustrated over Biden’s prolonged infrastructure negotiations with Senate Republicans.
“He’s focused on building momentum for a reconciliation bill that will be the most consequential legislation for working people enacted since the 1930s,” said a Sanders aide.
Sanders isn’t as concerned as other progressives are about their priorities being left out of the overall infrastructure package because the budget process is only just beginning, the aide added. And Sanders believes strong climate provisions — one of his biggest priorities — will be in a reconciliation bill.
At the same time, Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, has communicated to the White House that he thinks the bipartisan talks should wrap up, a source familiar with his interactions with the White House said.
The White House is in regular touch with both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sanders about infrastructure priorities, according to a White House official, who described its relationship with Sanders as strong. A Sanders aide also confirmed that the senator is in close touch with the White House and Schumer.
America needs private investment — not public infrastructure
The American economy would be better off if the whole deal was scrapped and more avenues for greater private investment in infrastructure were created while increasing our overall economic freedom by cutting taxes and lowering spending. Benjamin Powell, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, Oakland, Calif., is director of the Free Market Institute and a professor of economics at Texas Tech University.
What the final reconciliation package looks like and which committees are responsible for various parts of it remains to be decided. When bipartisan talks end — with or without a deal in hand — different factions of Democratic lawmakers will start to haggle among themselves over the legislative language of the reconciliation package.
Video: Congressional Black Caucus rules unclear after GOP member shut out (FOX News)
Some Democrats are optimistic their priorities won’t be left behind because of Biden’s repeated comments that “inaction” on his entire package — which includes money for eldercare, childcare and K-12 and higher education — is unacceptable. Some progressives are sanguine, too, that the bipartisan talks will fail because they’ve repeatedly stalled over disagreements on how much total to spend and how to pay for the narrower bill.
As those talks have continued, high-profile Democrats – from former vice president Al Gore to John Podesta – have pressed Biden to keep climate provisions in any final package that passes. The White House has said it planned to do so. On three recent occasions, it cited a shortfall on climate issues as a reason it rejected GOP compromise offers. That included when press secretary Jen Psaki noted why Biden broke off talks with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
After crafting $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, bipartisan group of senators start lobbying White House, colleagues
The deal would not raise the corporate tax rate, which Biden had proposed. And it wouldn't hike the 18.4-cent federal per-gallon gas tax.The deal, reported by several media outlets and confirmed by a Senate source familiar with the deal, would focus on traditional transportation programs such as rail, bridges and waterways. It would not include "soft" infrastructure such as climate change and housing, which Biden had called for in his original $2.25 trillion American Jobs Act.
“He informed Senator Capito today that the latest offer from her group did not, in his view, meet the essential needs of our country to restore our roads and bridges, prepare us for our clean energy future, and create jobs,” Psaki said on June 8.
Liberals were steamed when Biden nonetheless returned to bipartisan talks with yet another group of senators. But this time, instead of only Republicans,and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) were part of the negotiations – a clear signal the two were not yet persuaded to support an infrastructure bill or a reconciliation package that would include it. While progressives have pushed for Biden to break off talks and force a vote, White House allies argue that’s short-sighted.
“Exhausting the bipartisan process around infrastructure – whether it gets to a deal Biden can accept or not – could actually help Manchin, Sinema and others get to ‘yes’ on whatever eventually emerges,” said Ben LaBolt, a former Obama aide and Democratic strategist close to the White House. “Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s Vice President and he will know not to wait for Godot if Republicans don’t engage in a good faith process. But to get to a good legislative outcome it always made strategic sense to engage both parties in the Senate.”
Go green or go bipartisan? Biden's big infrastructure choice
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s hopes of channeling billions of dollars into green infrastructure investments to fight climate change are running into the political obstacle of winning over Republican lawmakers who oppose that approach as unnecessary, excessive spending. As negotiations unfold in Congress in search of a bipartisan deal, the White House's ability to ensure a climate focus in Biden's sweeping infrastructure package is becoming daunting — so much so that key Democrats are warning the administration to quit negotiating with Republicans, calling it a waste of time that will produce no viable compromise.
The White House has held steadfast to its strategy, which is to continue attempting at a deal with Republicans but, at the same time, move forward with the bureaucratic necessities in the Senate should no deal materialize.
“The president is fighting to deliver historic infrastructure investments that will generate economic growth, create middle class jobs, ensure our leadership in clean energy, and advance our competitiveness in the world,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. “He and his team are engaged in good faith bipartisan negotiations towards that goal, and at the same time see multiple paths forward.”
But unease is growing among more and more Democratic senators the longer the infrastructure negotiations with Republicans continue.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was one of multiple Democrats who warned about the exclusion of climate policies last week. A clean energy package that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee in May consolidated clean energy tax breaks and made them contingent upon emissions reduction. It is expected to be a central piece of the final package.
Wyden would need “ironclad assurances that reconciliation would move forward with robust climate, clean energy legislation to support moving anything on a separate track in a bipartisan way,” said a Senate Democratic aide.
The Biden administration says a dual-track approach is exactly what it’s pursuing, but progressive anxiety is reaching a boiling point. The longer it takes to pass infrastructure, progressives argue, the less time Biden will have to focus on other big agenda items. And voters are waiting for more aid to deal with the economic stressors brought on by the pandemic, they say.
“There’s no question they're working hard and I don't question their good intentions,” Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveON said of the White House. “Our concern is the dynamics in Congress are really slowing the progress.”
“We're very worried and we need to turn up the heat,” Epting added. “Business as usual is not what people voted for.”
White House stands firm against increasing gas tax as Biden, senators prepare to meet on infrastructure .
President Biden repeated his opposition to raising the federal gas tax as he and a bipartisan group of senators negotiate on an infrastructure plan.A bipartisan group of 21 senators identified public-private partnerships, redirecting money previously allocated for COVID-19 relief, and "indexing" the federal gas tax annually to match inflation as possible funding options for their $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework, according to a draft outline obtained by USA TODAY.