World Insights: Biden's massive spending package tough sell to Republicans

2021-05-16 07:06:27 GMT2021-05-16 15:06:27(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, May 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Joe Biden intends to pass two spending plans worth over 4 trillion U.S. dollars, but Republicans are blasting the package as wasteful and overpriced.

Biden is proposing a massive package that includes infrastructure and a slew of other items, at a cost of around 4.1 trillion dollars. Republicans have balked at the huge price tag, and are comparing it to the nearly 2-trillion-dollar stimulus plan signed in March.

Critics said over half of that stimulus, dubbed the Rescue Plan, was a progressive wish list that had nothing to do with helping Americans offset the damage done by the lockdowns that devastated the economy.

Biden's package is divided into two plans, one called the American Families Plan, with a 1.8-trillion-dollar price tag, and the other billed as the American jobs plan, at a cost of 2.3 trillion dollars. The latter purports to invest in transportation infrastructure, water systems and electricity, as well as building homes that are more energy efficient.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Barry Bosworth noted that the two new plans are of roughly equal size and are complementary in goals. However, coming on the heels of the prior economic rescue plan, they need to be fully paid for in what will soon be a highly employed economy.

Since most of the two plans have no bipartisan support and there is little enthusiasm for tax increases, passage will require a large scaling back or delay of the two plans, Bosworth told Xinhua.

Bosworth noted that the Jobs Plan is split among traditional physical infrastructure, non-transportation investment (housing and broadband), caregivers, and various subsidies for manufacturing.

It appears that the first of those items are popular and will have significant support, but the arguments for manufacturing and caregivers are weaker and unlikely to pass. The bill will cost around 1 trillion dollars if they can agree on financing, Bosworth said.

The Family Plan is also proposed at about 2 trillion dollars, with most of the money going to child care and education, the education portion of which is not "well thought out at this point" and would "undergo considerable modification in the future," Bosworth said.

"I don't think there'll be any Republican senators, none, zero, for the 4.1 trillion (dollar) grab bag, which has infrastructure in it, but a whole lot of other stuff," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking of Biden's latest package.

But the White House has indicated that the president is hungry for a deal, and is willing to compromise.

Last month, a group of Senate Republicans introduced a 568-billion-dollar infrastructure plan, largely focused on rebuilding the country's physical infrastructure and funded without any tax hikes.

Biden said on Thursday that Senate Republicans will give him a revised infrastructure offer next week after a meeting with a group of six Republican senators at the White House.

One key figure who has grabbed headlines in recent weeks is Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who has said he is "very uncomfortable" with what would amount to Biden's total 6-trillion-dollar spending packages, should the latest round be signed into law.

Some experts said because Congress is so tightly divided, Manchin's siding with the GOP could bring difficulties in the bill's passage.

Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the center for international and security studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua that Manchin is doing a complicated tap dance.

Manchin wants to appear as a thoughtful, prudent steward of the taxpayer's money, but once the money goes out, he doesn't want to be on the wrong side of that, Ramsay said.

The odds that Manchin will actually vote no on the Families Plan "are something like 3 in 10," Ramsay said.

"I think it's more likely that he will get some modifications here and there, plus something for his state, and then vote yes," Ramsay said.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West noted that there is considerable support for Biden's infrastructure plan, "so I expect it to pass," he told Xinhua.

"Many legislators like the idea of bringing money back to their states to repair highways, bridges, and dams. Manchin likes to play the two parties off against each other but he has said he supports infrastructure investment and wants to make sure it is paid for," West said. Enditem