President Biden and other Democrats support a broader list of what should be included in an infrastructure package than Republicans do. The Biden Administration started this year’s serious infrastructure discussion with the proposal detailed in his American Jobs Plan which includes categories of what they call “human infrastructure.” Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and her Republican Senate colleagues led the Republican Party’s negotiations with the White House and proposed their own infrastructure package that included a narrower set of physical infrastructure categories.
Two congressional groups have each offered bipartisan proposals that include fewer categories than the American Jobs Plan but more than Senate Republicans’ plan. In the Senate, the Common Sense Coalition (CSC), a group of ten Democrats and ten Republicans led by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME), have addressed infrastructure. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Rob Portman (R-OH) led the infrastructure sub-committee of that larger bipartisan Senate group that developed a package that has now been endorsed by the CSC as a whole. In the House, the Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC), a group of 29 Democratic and 29 Republican representatives led by Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) developed a bipartisan proposal (go here and here for more details on their proposal).
Most recently, President Biden announced that he has agreed with the Common Sense Coalition (CSC) on a “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework” to guide the negotiations to finalize the details of infrastructure legislation. The agreement announced by the White House follows CSC’s more limited list of what to include in bipartisan infrastructure legislation. The categories in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan not included in the bipartisan framework are generally categories that President Biden has called “human infrastructure” like caregiving for aging Americans and those with disabilities along with hospitals for veterans. The White House has pledged to pursue these human infrastructure categories in separate legislation. President Biden further explained that this separate legislation will also include his American Families Plan. The $1.8 trillion American Families plan includes support for child care, paid leave, universal preschool, and free community college. It appears clear that this second legislative package could only pass through reconciliation, a procedural mechanism that would allow Democrats to advance it on a purely party-line basis if all 50 Senate Democrats and almost all Democrats in the House agree.
This brief breaks the discussion of what should be included in an infrastructure package into 11 categories. They are listed roughly in order from those with the greatest bipartisan agreement that they should be included to those with the least agreement.
The categories we review are the 11 included in the agreement that President Biden and the Common Sense Coalition struck.
There has been wide agreement from the start that the first five categories readily fit within the standard definition of infrastructure and should receive new investments. The initial American Jobs Plan, the initial Senate Republicans’ plan, the Common Sense Coalition Plan, and the Problem Solvers Caucus plan all include proposals for increased investment in: (1) surface transportation, which includes roads and bridges, rail, and public transit, (2) broadband, (3) water systems, (4) airports, and (5) ports and waterways.
Bipartisan negotiations have resulted in two additional categories now receiving support from all four perspectives. The sixth category we consider is water storage. At the request of Senate Republicans, President Biden agreed to include new investments for water storage. The seventh category is electric vehicles. Senate Republicans’ agreed to President Biden’s request to include funding for electric-vehicle charging stations in their revised package. Both water storage and electric vehicles are also included in the Common Sense Coalition package that President Biden now supports, as well as the Problem Solvers Caucus proposal.
President Biden’s and the Common Sense Coalition’s agreed upon framework includes the final four categories of the 11 that we consider. Each of the final four are also included by the Problem Solvers Caucus but not by Senate Republicans. In the order in which we consider them, they are: (8) power infrastructure, (9) reconnecting communities divided by previous infrastructure projects, (10) resilience to extreme weather and other climate-related challenges, and (11) remediating abandoned industrial and energy sites.
We do not review the four additional categories that were part of President Biden’s original American Jobs Plan and for which he will continue to advocate as part of the second legislative package that will include his American Families Plan.