Schumer, Sanders eye $6 trillion infrastructure plan, bipartisan group plans public asset fire sale

Schumer, Sanders eye $6 trillion infrastructure plan, bipartisan group plans public asset fire sale

There are now 21 senators—11 Republicans and 10 Democrats—who have signed onto a “framework” for an infrastructure bill, while at the same time Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders are prepping a budget reconciliation package upwards of $6 trillion.

The bipartisan framework is still a moving target, still with funding mechanisms that won’t cut it with enough Democrats in either chamber to pass. As of Wednesday evening, it was a nearly $1 trillion package, with $579 billion in “new” spending ($435 billion of that pilfered from COVID-19 relief funds). According to an anonymous Republican source to The Washington Post, it would include $110 billion for roads and highways, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, and $48 billion for public transit. It would acknowledge climate change with $47 billion for shoring up existing infrastructure and electric vehicle charging stations. Biden’s original $2.25 trillion proposal for the American Jobs Plan includes $115 billion to modernize the bridges, highways, and roads. It has another $85 billion for public transit, $80 billion for Amtrak, and $174 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, to electrify 20% of school buses, and to electrify the federal fleet. He’d spend $100 billion on broadband, $25 billion for airports, and $111 billion for water projects.

The revenue proposal to pay for this bipartisan plan is, in the words of one Republican consultant, “an awfully vague, sketchy collection.” And that’s coming from former Speaker Paul Ryan’s chief of staff, so he should know vague and sketchy when he sees it, as that was his former boss’ stock in trade. To be fair, this document is “not the working group’s proposal. It is a draft put together by one member of the group for consideration. It was not reviewed or approved by the group nor reviewed by the White House before it was leaked.” That’s a quote attributed to the “Senate group.” One has to wonder if that leaker wasn’t the same Republican source to the Post and that leaker wasn’t trying to upend negotiations, at least just a little.

There’s a lot of “public/private partnerships” and “asset recycling” and “leveraging private investment” in that document, all of which amounts to selling off public assets to private enterprise. It’s basically the Trump privatization scheme, funding infrastructure by selling it off to the highest bidder.

Oh, and of course there’s the “annual surcharge on electric vehicles,” and “adjust customs user fees.” There’s a “placeholder” in there, too, to “index gas tax to inflation,” but that’s already been nixed by Joe Manchin, and also by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “I would not be for that. I don’t think America’s working families should be footing the bill for America’s roads and bridges,” she told reporters Thursday. Hopefully Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats will take as dim a view of privatizing the whole of the nation’s backbone.

Meanwhile, the second track of infrastructure legislation blessed by President Biden will move forward, and is growing. Biden and Senate Democratic leadership are making a pretty good bet that the bipartisan negotiations will either collapse or end up with a bill that cannot garner enough Democratic support in the House or Senate to pass unless it is accompanied by a much stronger, Democrats-only reconciliation bill. And what Schumer and Sanders are talking about is much stronger.

They’re looking at as much as $6 trillion over 10 years for a reconciliation bill that includes elements from the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan—Biden’s twin hard and social infrastructure proposals. That means in addition to real work on climate change, it would also include money for elder care, early childhood and college education, and child care. It is likely to include Medicare expansion to age 60, as well as coverage under Medicare for vision, dental, and hearing.

As of now, the White House is keeping all options open. “The White House team was grateful for the briefing from the Democratic Senators involved in the infrastructure negotiations, and found it productive and encouraging,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates. “They look forward to briefing the President tomorrow after his return to the White House, and continuing to consult with Senators and Representatives on the path forward.”

They are encouraging both the Manchin-Sinema wing on bipartisan negotiations, but are not telling progressives to shut up. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Washington), who heads up the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Politico that the White House has “not in any way told us not to do what we’re doing” in criticizing the bipartisan bill, and in demanding that it be tied to a broader reconciliation bill. Jayapal reiterated that for any support by her large caucus for the bipartisan deal, all of the reconciliation provisions “would need to be worked out and it would need to be moving at the same time.”

Once again, Manchin could be the fly in the ointment, refusing to commit to supporting it. His support is, again, essential for a reconciliation bill to pass. That is unless lightning strikes some Republican who suddenly sees the light of doing something good for the nation for a change. If he doesn’t commit to that, all bets are off in the House. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez likely speaks for a much larger group of progressives in saying if there’s no commitment from Manchin on reconciliation, “Then I won’t commit to this [bipartisan] deal.”

Once again, everything comes down to Manchin, Sinema, and the filibuster. The upside is that Schumer and Biden have finally managed to make those two actually do some work to justify their obstruction. Perhaps the fact they they’ve finally invested personally in this and, in the case of Manchin, voting rights legislation means they’ll be willing to move on the filibuster when Republican support for their efforts inevitably evaporates.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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