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Linking Infrastructure to Other Legislation

Our final questions are about whether you think that support for a bipartisan infrastructure package should depend on what happens with the other legislation. As noted above, President Biden plans to pursue funding for the four categories not included in the Common Sense Coalition plan, the plan that he now supports, in separate legislation. He intends to also include in this separate legislation his American Families Plan that calls for $1.8 trillion in new spending over ten years on childcare, paid leave, universal preschool, and free community college. This separate legislation is also likely to include the corporate tax measures that are in the American Jobs Plan but not included in the Common Sense Coalition Plan, as well as increased taxes on those that earn more than $400,000 per year.

Tying support for bipartisan infrastructure legislation to this separate legislation is about process as much as substance. The bipartisan infrastructure legislation will be considered under normal rules. That means that 60 out of 100 senators most vote for it to pass. In the Senate, which is currently split evenly between Democrats (50) and Republicans (50), that means that at least 10 Republican senators must vote for a measure if all 50 Democratic senators vote for it. However, President Biden and congressional Democrats plan to pursue the separate legislation through the budget reconciliation process. Legislation considered under budget reconciliation rules can pass with a simple majority so that only 50 votes are required in the Senate if Vice President Harris breaks the tie in favor of a bill. In other words, congressional Democrats could pass the separate legislation with no Republican senators or representatives supporting it.

Some members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are indicating that how they vote on a bipartisan infrastructure package will depend on the separate legislation. Although President Biden has now pledged to sign bipartisan infrastructure legislation regardless of whether the other legislation passes, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and many progressive Democrats in Congress are indicating that they will not support the bipartisan infrastructure legislation unless the separate legislation also passes. They hope that this will convince moderate Democrats inclined to work on a bipartisan basis like Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to vote for the separate legislation that cannot pass without their support.

On the Republican side, some conservative Republicans are indicating that they will only vote for bipartisan infrastructure legislation if the separate legislation that includes President Biden’s and congressional Democrats other priorities does not pass. They hope that this will convince the same moderate Democrats not to support that separate legislation thus defeating it.

Both Democratic and Republican opponents of linking bipartisan infrastructure to the other legislation argue that if members of Congress take this approach, nothing can get done. They argue that it is better to consider each piece of legislation on its own merits.