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Biden says inaction on infrastructure

Washington — President Biden promoted the American Jobs Plan, his $2 trillion infrastructure package, in remarks on Wednesday, arguing that the definition of infrastructure is “evolving” and defending his proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to pay for it.

The president reiterated his willingness to work on a bipartisan basis to improve the plan he has laid out, saying he and the vice president would meet with lawmakers of both parties and “be open to good ideas and good faith negotiations.”

“We will not be open to doing nothing. Inaction simply is not an option,” Mr. Biden said.

He challenged criticisms from Republicans about raising the corporate tax rate or including provisions that seem unrelated to the traditional definition of infrastructure, such as updating veterans’ hospitals and expanding broadband access. Mr. Biden argued that trains and highways were not considered to be traditional infrastructure until America laid down tracks and interconnected roadways.

“The idea of infrastructure has always evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs, and it’s evolving again today,” Mr. Biden said. “Infrastructure still depends on roads and bridges, ports and airports, rail and mass transit, but it also depends on having reliable, high-speed internet in every home, because today’s high speed internet is infrastructure.”

The president argued that the definition of infrastructure should be more expansive, and include ideas such as investing in electric car charging stations, improving access to clean water and bolstering care for the elderly and disabled. He urged critics to ask working class Americans what they need “to build a better life,” saying that their definition of infrastructure would include better-paying jobs and improving home care. He also questioned if Republicans were truly opposed to updating veterans’ hospitals.

“Above all, infrastructure is about meeting the needs of a nation,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and renegotiating a global minimum tax on multinational corporations. The president has also pledged that no one making under $400,000 would see a hike in their taxes.

“I’m open to ideas about how to pay for this plan, with one exception,” Mr. Biden said. “I will not impose any tax increases on people making less than $400,000 a year. If others have ideas out there on how to pay for this investment, without violating that rule, they should come forward.”

Mr. Biden noted that raising the corporate tax rate to 28% would still mean that the rate will be lower than it was between World War II and 2017. He also pointed out that his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was broadly popular with the American people, and said that the American Jobs Plan would be as well.

“I urge the Congress, listen to your constituents,” Mr. Biden said.

Republicans have criticized the size of Mr. Biden’s infrastructure proposal, and argued that not enough of it would be spent on projects such as building highways.

“When people think about infrastructure, they’re thinking about roads, bridges, ports and airports,” GOP Senator Roy Blunt said in an interview with “This Week” on ABC News on Sunday.

Mr. Biden responded to those criticisms from Republicans in his remarks Wednesday, saying that perspective on infrastructure is “really not rational.” But despite Mr. Biden’s efforts to convince Republicans to support his plan, it is unlikely that GOP lawmakers will vote for such a large package that also raises corporate taxes.

As most legislation requires 60 votes to advance in the Senate, and Democrats only hold a 50-seat majority, Democrats may use the process of budget reconciliation to pass the bill, which allows legislation to be approved with only a simple majority of votes. Congress used budget reconciliation to pass the American Rescue Plan without any Republican votes.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled earlier this week that Congress may use budget reconciliation multiple times per fiscal year, a boost of Democrats seeking to pass Mr. Biden’s budget-related priorities with a simple majority.

Mr. Biden’s proposal has also received some criticism from progressive Democrats, who argue that it does not go far enough. And at least one senator, moderate Democrat Joe Manchin, has expressed concerns about raising the corporate tax rate to 28%, instead advocating for raising it to 25%. However, Democrats are more likely to get in line behind the president’s package than Republicans.

Sara Cook contributed reporting.

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