How History and the Census are Impacting Biden’s Infrastructure Proposal

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May 10, 2021

Two factors beyond the control of any one person could potentially upend President Biden’s $4.1 trillion infrastructure proposal: history and the census results.

Succinctly stated, history shows that the president’s party usually suffers losses in the mid-term elections for a variety of reasons, and the census results, according to respected campaign watchers, could easily shift eight seats to the Republican column.

This has congressional Republicans salivating over a possible future in 2022 where they recapture the House majority by 10-20 seats. Democrats, for their part, are trying to pass an agenda that will help them retain their narrow majority, but in politics, macro forces can sweep aside the best of plans.

Consider this: Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL), who led the House Democrat’s campaign arm for the 2020 elections and squeaked out a victory in a district won by Trump, just announced her retirement. With Bustos out, six Democratic incumbents are set to go up for reelection next year in districts that Trump carried in 2020. This may put the House Democrat’s majority in peril.

Congressional Republicans are not guaranteed a majority, however, as many a plan has been ruined by bad candidates, overreaching, and shifting national politics. Already we have heard Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) say that he does not think there will be any Republican support for the $4.1 trillion infrastructure bill as it is written. Without any Republican support, the only choice will be for Biden to try to muscle the bill through using reconciliation or negotiate a compromise.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the lead Republican on the infrastructure panel, has proposed an alternative, which is much smaller and does not have the extras included in the Biden plan.

Democrats negotiated with Republicans during the Obama years, only to see Republicans abandon the final plan, leaving many on the left feeling like they were played, a mistake they don’t want to make again. So, while President Biden has instructed his team to work with Republicans in a bipartisan manner, many on the left may prefer a different tack.

What we do know is that for two reasons the final infrastructure bill will look a lot different. First, if Democrats use the budget reconciliation process to pass the Biden infrastructure plan, a number of key provisions (e.g. the JOBS Act promoting unions) will be dropped due to arcane budget rules. Second, if Biden negotiates with Republicans on a bipartisan infrastructure bill part of his proposal may be left on the table, and how it is paid for will be changed. Whichever route is chosen, there will be an infrastructure bill.

Seizing the opportunity, IIBEC continues to work with our construction colleagues to encourage Democrats to include the E-Quip Act in the bill (described in a previous IIBEC post). A provision in the bill would provide a 10-year expensing of high-performance roofs and require them to be designed, installed, operated, and maintained by credentialed professionals.