Biden boosted by Senate rules as GOP bucks infrastructure

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President Joe Biden talks with reporters on the Ellipse on the National Mall after spending the weekend at Camp David, Monday, April 5, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – With an appeal to think big, President Joe Biden is promoting his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan directly to Americans, summoning public support to push past the Republicans lining up against the massive effort they sum up as big taxes, big spending and big government.

Republicans in Congress are making the politically brazen bet that it’s more advantageous to oppose the costly American Jobs Plan, saddling the Democrats with ownership of the sweeping proposal and the corporate tax hike Biden says is needed to pay for it. He wants the investments in roads, schools, broadband and clean energy approved by summer.

On Monday, Biden received a boost from an unexpected source. The Senate parliamentarian greenlighted a strategy that would allow Democrats in the evenly-split 50-50 chamber to rely on a 51-vote threshold to advance some bills, rather than the typical 60 votes typically needed. The so-called budget reconciliation rules can now be used more often than expected — giving Democrats a fresh new path around the GOP blockade.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's spokesman welcomed the parliamentarian's opinion as “an important step forward.” Spokesman Justin Goodman said no decisions have been made on the process ahead, but “this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed.”

The prospects for a massive infrastructure investment, once a bipartisan source of unity on Capitol Hill, have cracked and groaned under the weight of political polarization. Where Biden sees an urgency in going big, Republicans want a narrow plan that focuses on roads and bridges, and warn that any corporate tax increase would crush economic growth.

“They know we need it,” Biden said of the Republicans as he returned to Washington on Monday. “Everybody around the world is investing billions and billions of dollars in infrastructure, and we’re going to do it here.”

The standoff almost ensures a months-long slog as Congress hunkers down to begin drafting legislation and the White House keeps the door open to working across the aisle with Republicans, hoping that continued public attention will drum up support.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell declared plainly on Monday that Biden’s plan is “something we’re not going to do.”