A measure that would have allowed the United States Senate to begin debate on a $1 trillion package to spend on roads, public transportation, broadband, and more lost on a party line vote Wednesday afternoon, following a years-long series of unsuccessful attempts. Adding one more link in. Rebuilding the critical infrastructure of the country.
But the measure’s defeat masks the real possibility that Democrats and Republicans may still be able to come together and pass legislation. Several Republicans who voted against starting the debate promised they would support the measure early next week, saying they were reluctant to start a debate on the measure because the legislative language had not yet finished, And the analysis of its impact on the federal budget has yet to come.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the vote – which was widely expected to fail – for several reasons. One of them was to appease a restless core of left-leaning Democrats who believe that months of effort to find a bill that both sides of the political aisle can agree on is the result of delayed tactics by Republicans, Those who don’t plan to support it regardless. What does the final package look like.
If Americans are skeptical about Congress actually reaching a deal, they have good reasons. The US government’s inability to act on the widely accepted need to update the country’s critical infrastructure has become a grim joke in Washington.
Signs of infrastructure decay have been clearly evident over the years, from Flint, Michigan’s widely publicized contamination of drinking water with lead, from “structurally deficient” tens of thousands of bridges to faulty water mains, Which leak an estimated 6 billion gallons. of treated water each day.
With such a clear need, why has an agreement on infrastructure packages been so elusive? As with many things in Washington, there is no single cause, but a set of policy and political factors that are intertwined to thwart progress.
lack of trust
Relations between the two parties in Washington have become so toxic in recent years that few members of Congress of either party are willing to gamble politically, requiring support from the other side of the aisle to be successful.
John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, said it was a lack of confidence that prevented many of his colleagues from voting to begin a debate on the existing infrastructure package without seeing the full legislative language. “You can’t vote on a framework. Right now there is not the kind of confidence around it that will allow that to happen,” he said.
For their part, Democrats point to a time when GOP members have participated in months of debate over legislation on health care and immigration reform, only to have the party’s leadership withdraw their support when it comes time for the final vote. for.
Even when the issue in question is something that is normally widely agreed upon, the political calculation in Washington is never far from the surface, especially when the gap between the House of Representatives and the Senate is as thin as as it is today.
With their eyes on the 2022 elections, in which they have a strong chance of winning back one or both houses of Congress, Republicans are going to be very prudent about when and how they want Biden to “win” over anything. “Give.
However, in the case of this infrastructure bill, there appears to be a willingness on the part of many Senate Republicans – a total of 10 would be necessary to clear away the filibuster in order to make a deal. After the failed vote on Wednesday, 11 GOP senators signed a letter to Schumer, saying they were “optimistic that we will finalize this historic bipartisan resolution, and be prepared to move forward.”
How will it be paid?
The biggest sticking point in the ongoing conversation is more concrete: how to get paid for it. The proposal is estimated to cost $1 trillion, of which a little over $400 billion will come from redirecting money that was directed at other priorities. The remainder, about $600 billion, has to come from somewhere, and there is significant disagreement about where.
Democrats had to shelve a plan to strengthen the Enforcement Branch of the Internal Revenue Service, a measure that would have been expected to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue from tax fraud, but Republicans put a halt to the plan, which would have led to funds There was a big hole in it. element of the offer.
Negotiators are currently considering scrapping changes to Medicare-related rules on the payment of prescription drugs. Reversing the change, which would have cost government money, would result in savings that could be applied to the infrastructure bill.
worry about inflation
A final concern to which some Republicans are reluctant to support the measure is the fear of inflation. The federal government has so far spent a whopping $4 trillion in efforts to help the country recover from the recession induced by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the Federal Reserve infuses the economy with liquidity by keeping interest rates low and buying mortgage-backed securities.
Some argue that the combination leaves the US open to a spiral of wage and price hikes that could force the Fed to raise rates sharply, triggering a recession in 2022. This has made some Republicans reluctant to sign on to spend more.
However, proponents of the infrastructure package say the US economy is still quite “loosening”, and their position was supported on Wednesday when Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi released a 15-page analysis of the package in which he was referenced. Inflation concerns as “overdone”.
Zandi argued that most infrastructure investment, which would stimulate long-term economic growth, would actually create downward pressure on inflation.