Infrastructure bill popular with voters 

Independence Day 2021 was a welcome change from 2020. Once again people were able to enjoy parades and booths, traveling, relatives, and firework displays. 

Last year saw a high of 401 new Covid-19 cases reported in Idaho on July 4. On December 9 we had 2,298 new cases. In comparison, the current 80+ new cases we’re now seeing daily seem manageable.

Many Americans see similar results across the country as the reason that President Biden’s current approval rating is 50%. Gas prices may be high and border facilities overwhelmed but those who wanted vaccines, including over 720,000 Idahoans, are getting together with friends and family again.  

But it’s not today’s rating that interests those struggling to foresee results of the next midterm elections. Just what will people think of this administration in November 2022?

At this point, I’m guessing Biden will be judged by the outcome of his major proposals concerning voting rights (For the People) and infrastructure (the American Jobs Plan). Included are changes that voters in both parties support and, with Democratic majorities in both Houses, people expect the president to deliver. 

Unfortunately, there’s a difference between having a majority and being in charge. It takes 60 affirmative votes in the Senate to overcome the current adaptation of the filibuster. And the reconciliation process, which avoids the filibuster, can be used no more than three times a year. 

When Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) failed to get any Republicans to work with him on a voting rights bill, he listed the proposals he would support.  A party-line 50-50 vote June 22 blocked consideration of the bill. Further action is expected after the August recess.

Now the focus is on infrastructure, something which members of both parties often support. Biden proposed a $2.3 trillion program while Bernie Sanders’ Democrats pressed for a $6 trillion one. And a bipartisan group of 10 senators agreed to nearly $1 trillion in investment over five years; that is actually $579 billion above spending already approved by Congress. 

A June 29 article on described the bipartisan proposal as a “very vague framework that includes funding for roads and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, clean drinking water, and broadband internet.”

Deciding how to fund the bill was a hurdle. Biden, who has promised no new taxes for anyone making less than $400,000 a year, suggested raising corporate taxes to 25 or 28%, still significantly lower than the pre-2017 rate of 35%. Republicans, vowing no new [income] taxes, pushed for a mileage tax on electric vehicles and an increase in the gasoline tax. Yet, apparently both sides did scrabble together several adjustments that may (or may not) cover the cost.

So this bipartisan program, including about everything traditionally thought of as infrastructure, had a great chance of getting 60 senate votes. 

As the work to add details to the proposal began, however, Biden assured Democrats that he would veto the bipartisan bill unless the remainder of his infrastructure proposal passed through the reconciliation process.

Republicans were quick to take offense. They oppose three things in the larger Biden proposal–the higher corporate tax, efforts to mitigate global warming, and shoring up the ‘human infrastructure.’ Global warming budget items include increased research and development, generation of clean energy, and support for worker training and community colleges. Human infrastructure includes aid for care of children and the elderly and disabled. 

Republicans, however, seem to have accepted Biden’s apology for suggesting he’d veto the bipartisan plan. There’s every chance the final bill will please enough voters that both parties will get a better than expected turnout for the off-year elections. We can hope.  

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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