WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday pledged swift work by Congress on a job and infrastructure package that will be âfiscally sound,â but said she isnât sure whether the next major item on President Joe Bidenâs agenda will attract Republican backing.
Fresh off a major legislative victory on the $1.9 trillion virus relief package that passed on near-party lines, Democrats face long and tough battles ahead in winning GOP endorsement of the administrationâs plans.READ MORE: San Francisco DA Boudin Files Charges Against SF Sheriff’s Deputy Accused of Sexual Assault, Threats
Road- and bridge-building legislation has a long history of support from both parties as lawmakers aim to deliver on projects back home. But Republicans disagree with Bidenâs focus on the environment and the possibility of financing any program with debt after the government borrowed heavily to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
âBuilding roads and bridges and water supply systems and the rest has always been bipartisan, always been bipartisan, except when they oppose it with a Democratic president, as they did under President Obama, and we had to shrink the package,â said Pelosi, D-Calif.
âBut, nonetheless, hopefully, we will have bipartisanship,â she said.
Pelosi has directed key Democratic lawmakers to begin working with Republicans on a âbig, bold and transformational infrastructure package.â
During the presidential campaign, Biden laid the groundwork by proposing $2 trillion in âacceleratedâ investments to shift to cleaner energy, build half a million charging stations for electric vehicles, support public transit and repair roads and bridges. The plan emphasizes the importance of creating unionized jobs and addressing climate change.
The White House originally planned to come out with a plan in February, but more recently hasnât committed to a timeline. A rollout is likely to slide into April as the administration embarks on a nationwide push over the coming weeks to sell Americans on the benefits of the COVID-19 relief bill.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, hope to pass a bill out of their committees in May.
The package could include policy changes â on green energy and immigration â and even try to make permanent some of the just-passed COVID-19 assistance such as child tax credits.READ MORE: Los Gatos School Teacher Convicted Of Molesting Students Sued By Victim's Family
âIt is going to be green and it is going to be big,â DeFazio told The Associated Press.
Democrats used a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation to approve Bidenâs COVID-19 relief plan without Republican support, a strategy that succeeded despite the reservations of some moderates.
But work on passing infrastructure legislation in a Senate split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris providing a tiebreaking vote will probably prove more difficult. Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., recently made clear he will block infrastructure legislation if Republicans arenât included.
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 3 Senate Republican, said he wants to see bipartisan support for an infrastructure legislation. But he said the House in the last Congress refused to embrace a $287 billion bill unanimously passed by a Senate committee and changed it in a way that Republicans could not accept.
âWhat did the House do? They replaced our highway bill with the Green New Deal,â Barrasso said. âSo they ignored what we have done in a bipartisan way. If they would take the model that we came up with in the committee in the Senate for highway and transportation, I think thatâs a very good start. I talked with the secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, about it, and I think that is the model on which we should move forward on transportation and infrastructure.â
On Sunday, Pelosi declined to say whether tax increases would be required for the House legislation, stressing that Congress would explore all options, including generating revenue with something similar to the Obama administrationâs Build America bonds.
Cost will be a major hurdle in passing an infrastructure plan. Thereâs little political interest in increasing the 18.3-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax, which generates revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, even though the rate has not increased since 1993. Biden promised during the campaign he would not increase taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year.
âThis is about broadband. Itâs about water systems. Itâs about mass transit, itâs about good paying jobs all over the country,â she said. âItâs also about schools and housing and the rest. … So the goal is to promote good growth, creating good-paying jobs as we protect our planet and are fiscally sound.â
Pelosi and Barrasso spoke on ABCâs âThis Week.âMORE NEWS: UPDATE: 'Non-Specific' Online Threat Shuts Down San Francisco State Campus
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