Biden’s infrastructure plan is politics as much as policy

Brandon Pytel
Apr 2 · 3 min read

This week Biden unveiled his American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion bill aiming to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and create millions of jobs. If passed, the bill would be a significant win for climate action, accelerating the shift to renewable energy, building out electric vehicle infrastructure, and expanding mass transit.

The bill shows Biden’s continued integration of climate action into larger plans, without making those plans solely about the environment. When speaking on the specifics in Pittsburgh, Biden only mentioned “climate” once.

Here, politics is just as important as the policy.

Photo credit: Adam Schultz / Biden for President

Instead of focusing on climate, Biden is once again leaning into jobs, calling the plan a “once-in-a-generation investment in America.” Positioning the bill this way is an attempt to appeal not just to Republican members of Congress but specifically to Republican voters.

Though the COVID-19 bill didn’t garner a single Republican vote, the general public’s preference was more of a mixed bag — 41% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents supported the measure (as well as 70% of the total population). The bill eventually passed with a simple majority.

On infrastructure, the President is trying to repeat this success, again through budget reconciliation to get past the filibuster and perhaps again without the support from a single Republican member of Congress. It’ll take as much, if not more, effort this time around.

Unlike the COVID-19 bill, infrastructure isn’t an emergency, so politicians can pick apart different parts of the bill in committee, reports The Associated Press.

Already, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has told reporters that “he would fight Dems “every step of the way” on the infrastructure plan and that it “is not going to get support from our side.” Meanwhile, the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, issued a memo, obtained by Fox News, outlining ways to fight the “trojan horse presented as an infrastructure package that harbors socialist and Green New Deal priorities.”

And Democrats aren’t exactly united on the plan, with some moderates wanting more Republican input and progressives wanting an even bigger package. Fortunately for Biden, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a key swing vote, said he’d be open to supporting legislation through budget reconciliation, so long as Dems at least try to engage Republicans.

With that in mind, Biden’s camp is presenting the bill as bipartisan on the surface: “We’ll have a good-faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to help get this done. But we have to get it done,” he said in Pittsburgh.

Still, expect Biden to favor pushing bills through rather than wait for compromise that may never happen — his strategy so far diverges from that of Obama, who spent valuable time trying to garner bipartisan support on big-ticket items like healthcare and climate, only to come to the table with bills divided by party lines.

Biden’s infrastructure bill comes as both parties are increasingly aiming to appeal to the “working class.” Republicans are calling it an “assault on American jobs and American taxpayers,” whereas Biden is positioning it as a way to rebuild the economy with jobs and infrastructure at the forefront.

Over the next few months, we’ll see if this narrative is enough to obtain the support he needs in Congress — or if both sides remain steadfast opposing the other and stalling climate action.

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Brandon Pytel

Written by

Environmental writer living in Washington, DC. Opinions are his own.

Planet Days

An environmental newsroom with a flair for drama and a fanfare for Earth, informing and empowering people who prefer the planet liveable.

Brandon Pytel

Written by

Environmental writer living in Washington, DC. Opinions are his own.

Planet Days

An environmental newsroom with a flair for drama and a fanfare for Earth, informing and empowering people who prefer the planet liveable.

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