President Joe Biden will unveil a $2 trillion proposal Wednesday to transform America’s infrastructure over the next eight years, launching a mammoth legislative offensive to turn a long-running Washington punchline into a legacy-defining policy achievement in his first year in office.
Biden will travel to Pittsburgh where he will call for trillions of dollars in investments to rebuild the country’s roads, bridges and transit; improve access to clean water and broadband; expand access to elder and disability care and revitalize American manufacturing. Or, as the White House puts it, the plan would affect how we move, how we live at home, how we care for one another and how we manufacture.
If passed alongside an overhaul of the country’s corporate tax system, as Biden is proposing, the White House says it would be fully paid for within 15 years.
The sprawling package is the first part of what will be a two-pronged “Build Back Better” plan, the latter of which will include Democratic priorities on caregiving and improving wages for essential workers to be rolled out in mid-April.
Together, the initiatives constitute a core component of the president’s agenda, one expected to dominate the next several months as U.S. lawmakers debate its path forward. And pushing it through Congress will require Biden to pull off a second legislative victory — one that could either burnish his legacy or tarnish his record — just weeks after securing a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package without a single Republican vote.
It would also finally deliver on promises made by Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who both tried to deliver sweeping infrastructure plans during their years in the White House and failed due to broad political opposition to either raising taxes or adding to the national deficit.
“Rescue was just part of the economic challenge he ran for president to address,” a senior Biden administration official said during a press briefing Tuesday night previewing the plan. “Then recovery, and the work of building back better, could come not too soon.”
Under the infrastructure umbrella, the plan reflects several of Biden’s major priorities, including combating climate change and dedicating aid under certain programs to disadvantaged communities to help narrow inequality.
The climate aspects include a call to end fossil fuel subsidies — a step that progressive Democrats have long been pushing for — and a $174 billion investment in vehicle electrification, which would involve at least 20 percent of school buses and the entire federal vehicle fleet. It would also target 40 percent of the benefits of its investments in clean infrastructure and climate to disadvantaged areas.
Some of the investments in research and development would also be aimed at eliminating racial and gender inequities — including by, for example, reserving some research funding for historically Black colleges and universities.