President Joe Biden has called for trillions in spending aimed at re-igniting America’s economic growth by upgrading its crumbling infrastructure and tackling climate change.
The $2.3 trillion proposal would direct billions to initiatives such as charging stations for electric vehicles and eliminating lead water pipes.
The spending would be partially offset by raising taxes on businesses.
Those plans have already roused fierce opposition.
Republicans have called the rises “a recipe for stagnation and decline”, while powerful business lobby groups including the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce said they supported investments but would oppose tax increases.
The pushback is a sign of the tough fight ahead for the plan, which needs approval from Congress.
The White House has promoted its proposal as the most ambitious public spending in decades, saying the investments are necessary to keep the US economy growing and competitive with other countries, especially China.
In a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 31, President Biden said: “This is not a plan that tinkers around the edges.
“It’s a once in a generation investment in America.”
The plan calls for investing more than $600 billion in infrastructure, including modernizing roads, replacing rail cars and buses and repairing crumbling bridges.
Billions more would be devoted to initiatives like improving veterans hospitals, upgrading affordable housing, expanding high-speed broadband, and providing incentives for manufacturing and technology research.
It calls for money to be directed to rural communities and communities of color, including establishing a national climate-focused laboratory affiliated with an historically black university.
The spending, which would have to be approved by Congress, would roll out over eight years.
The White House said tax increases would offset the cost over 15 years.
President Biden called for raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a move that would partially undo cuts the US passed in 2017. He also proposed raising the minimum rate charged for overseas profits.
In his speech, in an acknowledgment such plans are likely to face, the president said he was also “open to other ideas” when it came to paying for the spending.
“Failing to make these investments adds to our debt and effectively puts our children at a disadvantage relative to our competitors,” he said.
“The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future.”
President Biden’s proposal – which closely resembles promises he made during last year’s election campaign – comes just weeks after Democrats muscled through $1.9 trillion more in aid to address the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, approving that package without Republican support.
It’s not clear yet how much of President Biden’s latest plan will make it through Congress – or how much of another spending package focused on areas such as childcare and education that he plans to unveil in coming weeks.
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan to help Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic has been approved in the House of Representatives.
The vote was along partisan lines. Two Democrats joined Republicans – who see it as too expensive – in opposing it.
The relief bill must now go to the evenly-divided Senate, which has already blocked a key element – doubling the US minimum wage to $15/hour.
The Covid-19 relief package seeks to boost vaccinations and testing, and stabilize the economy.
The cash would be extended as emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state governments. Unemployment is close to 10%, with some 10 million jobs lost in the pandemic.
The vote comes in the same week the United States passed 500,000 coronavirus-related deaths – the largest figure of any nation in the world.
In brief remarks at the White House on February 26, President Biden hailed the House’s approval of the plan, saying he hoped it would receive “quick action” at the Senate.
He said: “We have no time to waste.
“If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly we can finally get ahead of this virus, we can finally get our economy moving again. And the people in this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering.”
Joe Biden had appealed for bipartisan unity when he took office last month.
He has championed what he calls the American Rescue Plan as a way to help struggling Americans through Covid-19.
However, Republicans say the plan is unnecessarily large and stuffed with Democratic priorities unrelated to the pandemic.
The divisions were reflected by the representatives.
The bill is the third major spending package of the pandemic, and actually not quite as big as President Donald Trump’s $2trillion last March.
A $1,400 cheque per person, although payments phase out for higher incomes
Extending jobless benefits until the end of August to help the more than 11 million long-term unemployed
Parents of children under the age of 18 to get a year of monthly benefits
$70 billion to boost Covid-19 testing and vaccinations
Financial support for schools and universities to help them reopen
Grants for small businesses and other targeted industries
Funds for local government
One of the other major elements is the increase of the minimum wage from $7.25/hour – where it has been since 2009 – to $15.
On February 25, Elizabeth MacDonough, the non-partisan Senate parliamentarian – who interprets its rules – said that raising the minimum wage would violate the budgetary limits allowed in this kind of measure.
The bill that passed in the House does still include the increase and it remains unclear how the issue can be resolved.
The minimum wage rise remains a key Democrat goal, particularly for the party’s progressive wing, and some top Democrats are considering a measure to penalize employers who pay less than $15/hour.
Republicans argue the minimum wage increase would be too heavy a toll on firms struggling to rebuild following the Covid-19 outbreak.
The package goes to the Senate – spilt evenly between Democrats and Republicans 50-50 – probably next week. The rules of the Senate do allow a reconciliation bill like this to be passed on a simple majority, rather than 60-40.
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