It looks like the Senate will pass an inadequate infrastructure bill after months of discussion. It’s been heralded as a bipartisan breakthrough. But it doesn’t meet the moment, as Katrina vanden Heuvel explains for The Washington Post:
While the infrastructure deal’s architects are hailing it as proof that bipartisan cooperation is possible, in fact, the deal is both inadequate and disingenuous. Its inadequacy is illustrated by the hundreds of millions of dollars cut from the original administration proposal: no more funding for research and development, for U.S. manufacturing, for public housing, schools and child-care centers, for home and community-based care, or for clean-energy tax credits. The bill also cuts proposed funding for public transit by half, for electric vehicles by 90 percent and for broadband by a third.
The bill is disingenuous both on the spending side and on the revenue side. To lower the bill’s price tag without totally gutting the programs, the bill uses a five-year timeline as opposed to the eight years in the original Biden plan. Because Republicans refuse to consider raising taxes on the rich and the corporations — which most Americans sensibly favor — or even empowering the IRS to collect taxes that the wealthy already owe, the bill offers gimmicks such as collecting unpaid taxes on cryptocurrencies and reclaiming past coronavirus aid funds. Almost half of the supposed $1 trillion price tag is from money already authorized.
The result is that any serious effort to alleviate the real crises facing Americans will depend on progressives corralling Democratic unity around the $3.5 trillion budget resolution that has been put together under the leadership of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). That bill will authorize crucial funding left out of the bipartisan deal — clean energy, research and development, manufacturing aid, housing and schools, child care — as well as sustaining the child tax credit and expanding Medicare coverage.
But to pass the reconciliation bill, Democrats need the votes of all 50 caucus members, and [Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)] have indicated that they may balk at the $3.5 trillion price tag. (Sinema has even said that she won’t allow any votes to interfere with her vacation plans. If she were to carry out that threat, she could torpedo both bills on her way out the door.) Once again, these so-called centrists are standing in the way of Congress addressing catastrophic climate change, investing in civilian research and development, boosting domestic manufacturing vital to our economy, and alleviating inequality and the pressures on working families. Also at stake are the chances Democrats have to retain their majorities in both the House and Senate in the 2022 elections, for their vote will surely be depressed by a failure to deliver.
It’s not that Sinema or Manchin have a specific, principled stance. They just want less. If there is a final agreement, it will probably be reached just like the infrastructure deal, by lowering the total price tag while sustaining most of the annual level of spending by reducing the number of years the programs are authorized. That will give the programs less time to take effect and make them more vulnerable to repeal.
With record wildfires, a terrible pandemic starting to revive, extreme inequality and an economy that doesn’t work for working families, most Americans increasingly realize that it is time for bold action. Yet, we have a Republican Party consumed by delusions and dedicated to making the administration fail. For all the bipartisan blather, Democrats must get it done on their own — despite having only a one-vote margin in the Senate (counting the vice president breaking a tie) and a three-vote margin in the House. And that requires Sinema, Manchin and others to get with the program.