Washington: On Monday, President Biden received a boost for his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan when the Senate parliamentarian greenlighted a strategy that would allow Democrats in the evenly split chamber to rely on a 51-vote threshold to advance some bills, rather than the 60 votes typically needed. The so-called budget reconciliation rules can now be used more often than expected — giving Democrats a fresh new path around the GOP blockade.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s spokesman welcomed the parliamentarian’s opinion as “an important step forward.” Spokesman Justin Goodman said no decisions have been made on the process ahead, but “this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed.”
The prospects for a massive infrastructure investment, once a bipartisan source of unity on Capitol Hill, have cracked and groaned under the weight of political polarization. Where Biden sees an urgency in going big, Republicans want a narrow plan that focuses on roads and bridges, and warn that any corporate tax increase would crush economic growth.
“They know we need it,” Biden said of the Republicans as he returned to Washington on Monday. “Everybody around the world is investing billions and billions of dollars in infrastructure, and we’re going to do it here.”
The standoff almost ensures a months-long slog as Congress hunkers down to begin drafting legislation and the White House keeps the door open to working across the aisle with Republicans, hoping that continued public attention will drum up support.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell declared on Monday that Republicans could support a “much more modest” approach, and one that doesn’t rely on corporate tax hikes to pay for it.
A core dividing line is Biden’s effort to pay for infrastructure by undoing Donald Trump’s tax break for corporations, a signature achievement of the Trump White House and its partners in Congress.
Biden proposes raising the rate to 28% and instituting a global minimum rate to dissuade companies from relocating in lower-tax havens.
But a single senator can break ranks to influence the size and shape of the package. On Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin indicated he would prefer a corporate tax rate at 25%, lower than what Biden is proposing.