Because Biden and the Democrats in Congress are once again slowed down by the legislative hangover of the Jim Crow era, the Senate filibuster. They are also hampered by the preeminent position of a Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, who, following his efforts to undermine vital aid to the unemployed in the American bailout plan, unprincipledly opposed to implementing the bill through reconciliation. Manchin said he would refuse to allow the law to be passed through reconciliation, the process Congress used for the COVID-19 Relief Act to expedite it and prevent Republicans from sabotaging it. Voting invoices can be passed with a simple majority and are not subject to filibuster rules.
"I'm not going to do it through reconciliation. I'm not going to come up with a bill that [Republicans] completely cut out before we start trying," Manchin told Axios of the infrastructure bill. At the same time, Peter DeFazio, the House's Committee on Transport and Infrastructure, said that this has to be at least partially so. "The money could be raised through reconciliation – and money will be a big problem," he told CNBC.
"It will be green and big," DeFazio said in another interview. This could mean a compromise: running all revenue for the bill by vote, a clearer means of approving billions or trillions of funding, and setting the guidelines and specific projects for all of those funding through the regular legislative process. Those efforts could be enough to get Manchin on board the filibuster reform when he sees how reluctant Republicans are to work with him and with Biden.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi announced Friday that she had directed senior Democrats and committee chairs to work with Republicans to create "a big, bold and transformative infrastructure package." Republicans are all for the spending in their districts, but not so much for the "transformation part" because they don't want climate change or justice to be built into the bill. The idea of dividing up the money and the political parts of it could also be fragmented here. Even so, DeFazio says he has a "tentative schedule" from his committee that will finalize its part of the bill by the end of May.
That means investing in a number of Green New Deal proposals and more: the usual building and repair of major roads and bridges; in zero-emission buses; Charging stations for electric vehicles; CO2-free electricity generation by 2035; a concentration of funding, also in federal contracts, for people and color communities; Renovation and rebuilding of affordable housing; and expanded high-speed broadband internet everywhere. These are the kinds of extras – broadband in particular – Republicans could bring on board for at least part of it. This is where another change to the rules of Congress could come into play: the restoration of ear tags. The member-directed spending, which allows lawmakers to address specific needs in their states and districts, comes back after the Tea Party Republicans tried to kill them a decade ago. It will be reformed and more transparent than in the old days of the "bridge to nowhere", but back.
"Building roads, bridges and water supply systems and the rest was always bipartisan, always bipartisan, except when they spoke out against it with a Democratic president like President Obama and we had to downsize the package," Pelosi continued this week on ABC on Sunday . "But we hope that we are non-partisan anyway," she said. "This is about broadband. It's about water systems. It's about local transportation, it's about well-paying jobs across the country," she said. "It's also about schools, housing and the rest. […] So the goal is to promote good growth and create well-paid jobs if we protect our planet and are financially healthy."
Biden's plan during the campaign was priced at about $ 2 trillion, an investment that would be a wise companion to the COVID-19 Relief Act for economic recovery as it would be a job machine. Which, of course, means that Republicans don't want it to go over because they don't want Biden to have another hit. Which also means that this could be the fight that ends the filibuster.