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Biden pitches infrastructure plan as vital to keep up with China

President Joe Biden promoted his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan in a White House speech on Wednesday, and described its passage as urgent to keep the U.S. competitive against China.

“It’s a once-in-a generation investment in America,” Biden said. “It is a the single largest investment in American jobs since World War II.”

Ahead of his remarks, administration officials said the plan — criticized by many congressional Republicans for including corporate income taxes — enjoys broad support from ordinary Americans and is overdue after decades of under-investment in roads, child care and other programs.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declared that “the evidence is unanimous that the American people support” Biden’s vision for the U.S. economy, citing initial polling around the infrastructure plan.

Biden seeks to pressure lawmakers to back the proposal by rallying support from voters. Republicans have balked at the level of spending the president proposed and the plan’s priorities, including hundreds of billions of dollars for child and elderly care, in addition to objections over the tax increases.

Biden has said the pandemic exposed economic inequities that left millions struggling, especially people of color, and that the infrastructure plan needs to go far beyond roads and bridges, as some lawmakers would prefer. He criticized his predecessor Donald Trump’s tax cuts for adding to U.S. debt, called the growth in the fortunes of billionaires during the pandemic unfair and complained about profitable U.S. corporations that manage to pay no federal taxes.

“Where’s the outrage there?” Biden said. “Maybe it’s because I come from a middle-class neighborhood. I’m sick and tired of ordinary people being fleeced.”

Biden said the U.S. needs to fund expanded internet access, replacement of lead water pipes in communities and charging stations for electric vehicles, among other projects.

“China and the rest of the world” are “attempting to own the future — the technology, quantum computing, investing significant amounts of money dealing with cancer and Alzheimer’s,” he said. “That’s the infrastructure of a nation.”

He added: “Do you think China is waiting around to invest in its digital infrastructure or in research and development? I promise you, they are not waiting. But they’re counting on American democracy to be too slow, too limited and too divided to keep pace.”

Biden said he’s open to negotiating with lawmakers on specifics of the plan. But he said inaction isn’t an option and he isn’t open to increasing taxes on those earning less than $400,000 a year to cover the costs.

Biden said he will host lawmakers in the Oval Office to exchange views on the plan. But the White House is also prepared to use a budget measure called reconciliation that would allow Democrats — as long as they stay unified in the 50-50 Senate — to pass a bill without any Republican support.

The president noted that no Republican supported his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief legislation, even after he reached out to a handful of GOP senators who expressed openness to negotiations. They didn’t “move an inch,” he said.

The president already faces some dissension among Senate Democrats. Progressives want the infrastructure plan to be bigger, while moderates such as Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia oppose raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, as Biden has outlined. Manchin favors a corporate rate of 25%. Biden told reporters that he’s willing to negotiate the corporate rate.

GOP lawmakers have complained Democrats disregarded their views on the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill that Biden signed last month. They said they want to avoid that outcome with the infrastructure package and that they want it to focus on traditional transportation projects.

White House aides have said they want Congress to make significant progress on an infrastructure bill by Memorial Day. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio said Tuesday his panel aims to complete work on its piece of the legislation “probably” in the third week of May. Bloomberg

 

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