POLITICO hosted a briefing for Pro subscribers on Thursday, May 13th on President Joe Biden’s pair of infrastructure proposals, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.
Transportation reporter Tanya Snyder discussed the floated investments in physical infrastructure. Technology reporter John Hendel described what the plan could mean for broadband, and labor reporter Eleanor Mueller discussed its child care and paid leave provisions, along with its implications for unions and U.S.-based jobs. Transportation reporter Sam Mintz moderated the discussion.
Here are five key takeaways:
1) Biden’s infrastructure plan could stand a better chance at enactment than prior presidents’.
Tanya explained that while previous presidents’ infrastructure overhauls, like former President Donald Trump’s, didn’t get far, Biden’s seems to have legs. First, there is a single party controlling Congress and the White House. Second, the administration is putting a lot of manpower into selling the plan. Third, there are a wide array of interests reflected in the package. And fourth, there’s a sense that the government already spent a ton of money on Covid relief, so what’s some more going to matter?
However, the White House must still grapple with narrow Democratic majorities in both chambers and uncertainty over the process — for instance, budget reconciliation, which would allow the legislation to move with a simple majority.
2) The inclusion of broadband may be a heavy lift for the White House.
John pointed out that while broadband is superficially a crowd-pleaser that both Biden and Republicans embrace, GOP lawmakers have balked at Democrats’ plans to help less conventional entities like local governments provide service and efforts to pressure private providers on pricing. Broadband providers have typically resisted government intrusion over what they charge their customers. And during fights over net neutrality, one of the fears the telecom industry and Republicans regularly invoke is that Democrats will attempt to regulate broadband internet rates, though many Democrats have long said they have no interest in doing so.
But digital connectivity advocates have repeatedly pointed to high U.S. prices and lament that there’s not enough competition or incentive for bringing down the prices. Biden has put Vice President Kamala Harris at the helm of the effort in a sign of the weight he’s assigning the topic.
3) Budget reconciliation could strip out or pare down the plan’s labor components.
Eleanor explained that passing the bill via budget reconciliation would prevent the inclusion of the pro-labor Protecting the Right to Organize Act. It would also block lawmakers from being able to enact job protections for workers who want to use the paid leave program Biden has proposed, unless they are also covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. As a result, an estimated 40 percent of the workforce would have no guarantee that their jobs would be waiting for them when they return — and that number will only grow in coming years because of how the FMLA is structured. The culprit is the Byrd rule, which bars reconciliation bills from including policy-related provisions that are considered extraneous to the budget.
4) Don’t count on the inclusion of user fees.
Sam told subscribers that the White House has been pretty clear that increasing user fees like the gas tax is something the administration considers to be a tax on people making under $400,000 a year, which would violate Biden’s promise not to raise taxes on people below that income threshold. While the negotiations could go in unexpected directions, it seems unlikely that’s something the administration would bend on.
5) There are provisions to encourage companies to keep jobs in the U.S. scattered throughout the package.
Eleanor explained that the plan would set aside $46 billion for the federal government to invest in clean energy manufacturing, which it would spend on U.S. corporations. The tax component, meanwhile, would discourage offshoring by increasing a minimum tax on U.S. multinational corporations to 21 percent and calculating it on a country-by-country basis, along with attempting to end “the global race to the bottom” on corporate tax rates by encouraging other countries to adopt strong minimum taxes on corporations, among other steps.
*This article was originally made available to POLITICO Pro subscribers on 05/14/2021 at 04:14 PM EDT