President Joe Biden will unveil a portion of his nearly $3 trillion infrastructure, jobs and climate change package on Wednesday, a legislative push that may include some of the steepest tax increases in decades.
Biden will lay out the big spending measure in Pittsburgh, Pa., which will target rebuilding roads and bridges, as well as tackling the climate crisis.
“The president has a plan to fix the infrastructure of our country. We’re currently 13th in the world. No one believes we should be there. And he has a plan to pay for it, which he will propose,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday.
“Once he proposes that, our focus is also on having that engagement and discussion with members of Congress,” Psaki added.
Psaki noted that Biden will cover how to fund the package but didn’t offer specifics. It’s widely expected, however, that there will be major tax hikes for wealthy Americans, including boosting the corporate tax rate by seven percent and raising taxes on those earning $400,000 or more—two tax-related measures that Biden advocated for on the 2020 presidential campaign trail. Another tax increase initiative that may be in the bill is an expansion of the estate tax.
The tax hikes will likely see pushback from Republicans and moderate Democrats who are hesitant to back another expensive bill considering the nation’s mounting national debt, but Psaki told reporters that the White House plans to work with both sides of the aisle to strike a deal on what’s included in the final version of the bill and how to pay for it.
“The public consistently expresses support for improved infrastructure,” Monika L. McDermott, a political science professor at Fordham University, said. “The problem for Biden is that they do not cite it as a priority. It is regularly rated less important than issues like health care, the environment and education.”
McDermott added, “The task for the Biden team is to impress upon the public, if they can, the urgency of prioritizing infrastructure at this point, with all else the country is going through. Combining infrastructure with environmental issues is one way to make it more appealing, as they are trying to do.”
McDermott also said that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg could be useful in selling the infrastructure package to Americans and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as he “was a pretty big hit with Democratic voters during the 2020 Democratic primaries, at least for a time. Biden has a good salesman there who combines youth, vitality, brainpower and relevance. He needs to take full advantage of that.”
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.y.) has already signaled opposition to Biden’s infrastructure bill, noting that there will not be bipartisan support for the effort. The Chamber of Commerce has also cautioned surging the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent since it would “make the United States a less attractive place to invest profits and locate corporate headquarters.”
Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, noted that Biden’s plea to moderate Democrats and Republicans that “he wouldn’t lurch too far to the left once elected,” could be “harder to sustain” this time around, considering the hefty price tag of the infrastructure effort.
The infrastructure bill is one of two parts, with the package’s overall price tag expected to sit at $3 trillion. The second component of the bill will cover domestic policy issues relating to health care, education and childcare programs.
“The case that Biden made to centrists and to some conservatives in the election is that he wouldn’t lurch too far to the left once elected. He has soft-pedaled gun control for instance, despite a new spate of mass shootings. But this price tag will make that case harder to sustain,” Reeher said. “If we look at the policy record since 1993, no Democrat has really succeeded at the national level by going big. Clinton played small-ball for the most part, after losing on health care reform. His main domestic policy change was a conservative one, on welfare. Obama had a big win on health care, followed immediately by an electoral backlash, and then a mutual siege.”
“It’s not clear to me how this chapter plays out,” Reeher added.
Biden’s legislative push comes after the administration secured a victory by passing the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that was funded entirely by debt. The stimulus measure followed similar packages during President Donald Trump’s administration, which totaled close to $4 trillion, which pushed the deficit to a record-shattering $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020.
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.