San Francisco Chronicle

GOP to block vote on Biden spending to boost economy

- By Josh Boak and Alexandra Jaffe Josh Boak and Alexandra Jaffe are Associated Press writers.

WASHINGTON — President Biden said his infrastruc­ture and families agenda must be passed to sustain the economic momentum of his first six months in office, aiming to set the tone for a crucial week of congressio­nal negotiatio­ns on the two bills.

But a Wednesday deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the bipartisan infrastruc­ture bill was in doubt as Republican­s signaled they would block a procedural vote, for now, while details are still being worked out. Senators are wrangling over how to pay for the new spending in the $1 trillion package of highway, water system and other public works projects.

At the same time, Democrats are developing the particular­s of a separate bill that would invest a stunning $3.5 trillion nationwide across Americans’ lives — with support for families, education, climate resiliency and other priorities that they aim to ultimately pass with solely Democratic support. Democrats hope to show progress on that bill before lawmakers leave Washington for their recess in August.

The legislativ­e maneuverin­g marks a major test of Biden’s ability to deliver on a huge package of economic promises and reforms he made during his campaign. He’s been putting public pressure on lawmakers with a series of speeches highlighti­ng the strengthen­ing economy while emphasizin­g the need for further investment to continue that growth and to bolster the middle class. Biden’s top aides met with senators late

Monday.

“What the best companies do — and what we as a country should do — is make smart, sustainabl­e investment­s with appropriat­e financing,” the president said Monday at the White House.

Calling his plans a “bluecollar blueprint for building an American economy back,” Biden said, “This is the best strategy to create millions of jobs and lift up middle class families, grow wages and keep prices affordable for the long term.”

The economy has come back to life as more Americans have gotten vaccinated and Biden’s earlier $1.9 trillion relief package has coursed through the country. Employers have added an average of nearly 543,000 jobs a month since January, with Federal Reserve officials anticipati­ng overall economic growth of roughly 7% this year that would be the highest since 1984. Yet there is also uncertaint­y as employers say they’re struggling to find workers at the current pay levels and inflation concerns

have yet to fully abate.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell decried the “spending spree” as “the last thing American families need.”

McConnell and outside groups including the conservati­ve Americans for Prosperity encouraged Republican­s to vote against proceeding to the bipartisan package until they have more details. “I think we need to see the bill before we decide whether or not to vote for it,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol.

The president is pushing for more than $4 trillion in combined spending with the hopes of prolonging solid economic gains. Biden’s $3.5 trillion package focused on climate, schools and families will need support from all 50 Senate Democrats to clear a party line vote.

Key to Biden’s message is that the growth is occurring as intended and helping the U.S. middle class. Yet much of it is expected to fade as the economy fully heals from the pandemic.

But the $973 billion infrastruc­ture deal Biden struck with a group of Republican and Democratic senators lacks a clear plan for how to pay for it as GOP lawmakers have backed away from tax compliance enforcemen­t by the IRS.

Instead, senators in the bipartisan group are considerin­g rolling back a Trumpera rule on pharmaceut­ical rebates that could bring in some $170 billion to be used for infrastruc­ture. No decisions have yet been made as senators huddled late Monday with administra­tion officials on next steps.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a chief Republican negotiator, said they resolved half of the estimated two dozen unresolved issues after a marathon round of talks late Sunday with the White House.

“It’s absurd to move forward with a vote on something that is not yet formulated,” he said.

 ?? Win McNamee / Getty Images ?? Rep. Nancy Pelosi (left), DS.F., is escorted to a news conference by Sen. Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. Schumer’s deadline for the infrastruc­ture bill is in doubt.
Win McNamee / Getty Images Rep. Nancy Pelosi (left), DS.F., is escorted to a news conference by Sen. Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. Schumer’s deadline for the infrastruc­ture bill is in doubt.

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