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What’s Doable If Democrats Fly Solo on Infrastructure: QuickTake


Photographer: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg

President Joe Biden campaigned on a $2 trillion infrastructure package to fuel the economic recovery and tackle climate goals. Enacting that plan, and funding it in part with the first major tax increase since 1993, will test what Democrats can do with the narrowest-possible majority in the U.S. Senate. Winning the support of 10 or more Republicans opens the clearest route to passage but at the moment seems unlikely. Otherwise it’s back to the go-it-alone route known as budget reconciliation, through which Democrats could raise taxes with relative ease but perhaps not be able to put the money toward the projects they most value.

1. What are Democrats proposing?

They’re eyeing a range of transportation infrastructure upgrades plus investments in renewable energy and incentives for domestic manufacturing. Some of the more progressive-minded lawmakers also favor “social infrastructure” initiatives, such as making an expanded version of the child tax credit permanent and broadening access to health care and child care. To pay for it, the Biden administration is considering an array of tax hikes that would target corporate profits and households making $400,000 or more.

2. How have Republicans responded?

Republicans are interested in some upgrades to physical infrastructure, including transportation systems and manufacturing. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says there is no enthusiasm in his party for any legislation that requires tax hikes.

3. Is there a workaround?

Democrats could try to split their task into two parts: one infrastructure bill funded partly by user fees (or other offsets known colloquially as “pay-fors”) rather than tax hikes, which might draw Republican support and thus not need to go through the budget reconciliation process; and another, tailored for reconciliation, raising taxes and funding other Democratic priorities.

4. What is budget reconciliation?



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