Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) voiced opposition to President Joe Biden’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan on Tuesday, asserting that the measure isn’t “nearly enough” for addressing America’s needs.
“This is not nearly enough. The important context here is that it’s $2.25T spread out over 10 years,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “For context, the COVID package was $1.9T for this year *alone,* with some provisions lasting 2 years.”
The progressive firebrand added that the package “needs to be way bigger.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments come as Biden will officially unveil the White House’s infrastructure plan, titled the “American Jobs Plan,” during a speech in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Wednesday. The proposal would direct government funding toward improvements and advancements in roads, bridges and broadband internet across the country, among other items.
The Biden administration expects to fund the measure through a slew of tax hikes to offset government spending after the hefty $1.9 coronavirus relief package that recently passed, including raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent and boosting income taxes on Americans making more than $400,000.
But Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the only Democrat that’s criticized the president’s infrastructure proposal, as some party members in New York and New Jersey have insisted that they would not stand behind any changes to the current tax code unless the state and local tax (SALT) reduction is restored. As part of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, Congress passed a $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction.
Democrats hold razor-thin margins in the House and Senate, so Biden and congressional leadership can only afford to lose a handful of votes.
“The SALT cap doesn’t just hurt our taxpayers but our communities too, which face savage cuts to vital public services if relief is not enacted. New York and New Jersey are also the largest net donors to the federal government and annually contribute more than we receive. Therefore, we will not accept any changes to the tax code that do not restore the SALT deduction and put fairness back into the system,” Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell (N.J.), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and Tom Suozzi (N.Y.) said in a statement on Tuesday.
Democrats hope to jam through the infrastructure package through budget reconciliation, the legislative procedure that avoids the Senate filibuster and wouldn’t require support from Republicans. But that means that Biden would have to keep his party members largely aligned and unified behind the effort in an already polarized political landscape.
“What is politically possible is not always enough to satisfy the base,” Kirby Goidel, a political science professor at Texas A&M University, said. “The razor-thin margins, which might inspire some unity around ‘passable’ proposals also means that fairly small groups can make policy demands because the legislation can't pass without them. The question is: if they don't get what they want, would they hold their nose and vote for the legislation?”
Goidel added, “One of the things we have seen over recent years is fewer bills becoming law but, when laws do pass, they are often larger as lots of ‘tag along’ items get added. So, a reasonable response on some of this . . .might be ‘we'll save that for another day,’ but legislators now this might be their best opportunity. In fact, I would argue this is a sign that legislators think this bill has a pretty good chance of passing. But members recognize that the window of legislative opportunity is open, but it won't be open for long, and they may not want to wait for future vote or future legislation.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a centrist, has noted that while he supports raising taxes to help fund the infrastructure package, he suggested the corporate tax rate should be raised to just 25 percent, three percent less than what Biden is proposing. Manchin has also balked at supporting the measure if Democrats use reconciliation to pass it.
Despite the recent resistance from groups of Democrats, experts anticipate that Congress will eventually pass an infrastructure bill, securing another legislative victory for the White House.
“Passing any legislation in a highly polarized Congress, especially with razor-thin majorities, is exceedingly difficult. But, Biden should still be able to thread the needle on his infrastructure package for three main reasons,” Jeffrey Ladewig, an associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, said, outlining that the president’s plan “is already near the Goldilocks middle, which should deliver the support from a majority of Democrats,” “legislation that distributes funds are among the easiest to negotiate” and “infrastructure spending is desperately needed across the country and thus quite popular among the American people. This should steel the Democrats’ resolve and maybe even interest some Republicans.”
The Biden administration reportedly wants to spend roughly $650 billion on improving bridges and roads, $300 billion on housing infrastructure, $300 billion on reviving U.S. manufacturing, $400 billion on care for elderly and disabled, and $400 billion on clean-energy credits. The infrastructure and jobs plan that the president is expected to introduce on Wednesday is one of two parts, with the second component covering domestic policy issues relating to health care, education and childcare programs.
“Overall, if I have to bet, I bet an infrastructure bill will pass, but navigating this maze will take some real legislative skill,” Goidel said.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.