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GOP Unites in Opposition to Biden’s Popular Infrastructure Plan

Republicans are positioning themselves against the plan with popular proposals like replacing all lead pipes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is seen during a press conference in the Rayburn Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 2, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

The massive infrastructure plan announced by President Joe Biden earlier this week includes widely popular components such as a plan to replace every lead pipe in the country, but Republicans are already announcing their intention to unite in opposition to the entirety of it.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) told reporters that the $2.2 trillion plan that the White House unveiled Wednesday — which features major investments in infrastructure, climate measures and proposals to tackle inequality — “is not going to get support from our side.” He also reiterated his intention to oppose the broader Democratic agenda under Biden. “I’m going to fight them every step of the way because I think this is the wrong prescription for America.”

McConnell similarly opposed infrastructure improvements in 2020 when they were favored by then-President Donald Trump and Democrats proposed putting them into the second coronavirus stimulus package. But the U.S. is in dire need of infrastructure improvements and has been since for many years.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its four-year report card on infrastructure in the U.S., continually gives poor ratings to this country’s pipes, roads, broadband and schools. In 2021, it gave U.S. infrastructure a C-, which is a slight improvement over its previous D and D+ grades but still indicates a dire need of investment. The organization says the country needs an infrastructure investment of over $6 trillion over the next 10 years.

In addition to opposing the physical infrastructure provisions within Biden’s plan, Republicans are also attacking what the White House is calling its investments in “caregiving” or “social infrastructure.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), who is the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told USA Today that she’s “very disappointed” that the plan will include social aid and questioned whether the plan will create jobs.

A large focus of the infrastructure plan is, in fact, job creation. The plan itself is called “The American Jobs Plan,” and the White House says that climate portions of the plan, in particular, will lead to the creation of jobs.

Climate activists have been demonstrating for years that climate policy creates jobs and that climate policy is infrastructure policy, but conservatives continue to push the argument that environmental regulation is a job-killer.

Republicans are also predictably opposed to the tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy that are included to pay for the plan. But, without the tax hikes to pay for the plan, the plan would likely be paid for by adding to the federal deficit, which Republicans have renewed their concerns about with Democrats in charge.

A recent Morning Consult poll found that the plan is not only popular, it’s much more popular with the tax increases than without; while 54 percent of voters support tax increases on corporations and on people making more than $400,000 to pay for the infrastructure plan, only 27 percent supported the infrastructure plan without the tax increases. Only 6 percent of all voters and 12 percent of Republican voters polled outright opposed the plan that Republicans in Congress are planning to unite against.

The plan includes proposals that will help improve the lives and health of Americans across the country. The plan would replace every lead pipe in the country, electrify the entire federal vehicle fleet and invest billions into improving roads, highways and Amtrak. It also includes investments aimed at helping the lower and middle class, investing over $200 billion into affordable housing and $100 billion into expanding internet access.

Biden called the plan “a once-in-a-generation investment in America” in a speech outside of Pittsburgh unveiling the package. The Democratic base appears energized by proposals in the bill, but it has also been criticized by progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who want the White House to go bigger.

Biden’s full plan is still yet to be released, but the package in full is estimated to cost up to $4 trillion. Both progressives and climate activists say this number reflects a misplaced focus on the federal deficit that is blocking major action on pressing issues like the climate crisis.

Ocasio-Cortez has argued that the nation needs a $10 trillion investment over the next decade in order to meet the scope of the challenges the U.S. is facing. “I know that may be an eye-popping figure for some people, but we need to understand that we are in a devastating economic moment,” she said on MSNBC, pointing to the dysfunctional health system and more. “We have a … planetary crisis on our hands, and we’re the wealthiest nation in the history of the world,” she added.

Many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have also recently released a $10 trillion climate, infrastructure and racial justice plan that runs rival to Biden’s plan, called the THRIVE Act. The advocates who helped shape the bill told The New Republic that it was a “down payment” on the Green New Deal, and one of its main goals is to cut emissions in half by 2030.

Democrats are hoping to pass Biden’s more limited bill using reconciliation, which would allow them to bypass Republicans and the filibuster.

Republicans’ opposition to Biden’s bill is in line with their broader orientation toward opposing the majority of Democratic proposals. So with Republicans adamant in opposition to the bill, Biden is seeking to redefine the “bipartisanship” of the support he hopes to garner for the bill, soliciting support not from Republican members of Congress but from voters of all political affiliations.

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