Months ago, President Biden unveiled the centerpiece of his national agenda: a two-pronged $ 4 trillion effort to transform the U.S. economy by reforming the country’s infrastructure and increasing aid to families.
Yesterday, Biden and a bipartisan group of senators – five Democrats, five Republicans – announced that they had reached a compromise on part of it: a $ 1.2 trillion framework to fund roads, charging stations charging for electric vehicles, broadband and other physical infrastructure.
Today we’re going to take you through the big questions, with the help of our colleagues in Washington.
How did a bipartite agreement come about?
You are not wrong to ask yourself the question. Republicans have almost uniformly opposed the top priorities of Democratic presidents for decades. Bill Clinton’s Tax Bill, Barack Obama’s Health Care Bill, and Biden’s Pandemic Relief Bill were all passed without any GOP votes. And just this month, Biden ended an earlier effort to haggle over infrastructure spending with Senate Republicans after Senators barely budged from their opening bid.
But the talks continued in part because repairing ruined roads and bridges is a less polarized issue than taxes or health care, says my colleague Emily Cochrane, who covers Congress. “This has long been seen as one of the last opportunities for a bipartisan deal.”
Both parties had reasons to collaborate. Biden wanted a bipartisan victory. Moderate Senate Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema insisted on working across the aisle. Some Republicans wanted to prove that Congress could still function. Others “still wish they could say, ‘Look, I’ve delivered hundreds of millions of dollars for projects back home,'” Carl Hulse, the Times’ Washington correspondent, told me.
The bipartisan framework includes money to clean drinking water and expand transit, as Biden originally proposed, but omits universal tax credits for pre-K, tax credits for pre-K. poorest families and other provisions of his family plan.
What could actually happen?
The White House and Democratic congressional leaders hope to pass two bills: one based on the compromise plan and a second focused on Biden’s families plan.
Democrats will have to walk a narrow line to pass either. Any defection – from moderate members opposed to the costs of bills or progressives reluctant to limit their scope – could defeat the bills. The party’s “two-track” approach is an effort to get both factions to support both bills, Carl said. “They are going to have to be very closely tied to each other to get the necessary votes.”
Insufficient support from Senate Republicans could also sink the bipartisan bill. “Even some of the people involved in the negotiations that I might see come off if the price gets too high,” Carl added.
Democrats aim to push through Biden’s families’ plan using budget reconciliation, a process that allows certain spending bills to wipe out the Senate with a filibuster simple majority. Progressives and moderates already disagree on how much to spend on the reconciliation bill and how much to increase to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans to pay for Biden’s plans. “The biggest gaps come down to the size,” Emily said.
Democratic leaders are also hoping to push through Biden’s most ambitious climate measures through reconciliation. But reconciliation bills must follow strict budget rules, and some of these proposals may not survive.
When is the vote?
Democratic leaders hope to push forward the bipartisan plan and kick off the reconciliation process next month, with the goal of passing both bills by the fall. But reconciliation can get complicated, and other bills, including raising the debt ceiling and funding the government, will vie for congressional attention.
“Let’s put it this way: I don’t have any concrete, unchangeable vacation plans after mid-August,” says Emily. “It will be a while.”
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Could this meeting have been an email?
People have held meetings for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians had hieroglyphics to convey the concept of “advice”. George Washington, tired of writing letters, summoned the founders of his study to help set up the US government, writes Caity Weaver in The Times.
During the pandemic, meetings took on new forms because we had to put them online. But they were almost never without technical difficulties, and many people found them insufficient.
So, asks Caity, what do we miss when we don’t meet in person?
By emphasizing collaboration, meetings can “play a psychological role in motivating the workforce,” economic historian Caitlin Rosenthal told The Times.
Avoiding a bad meeting requires purpose, a mix of introverts and extroverts, and ideally designated decision makers. As Caity writes: “A meeting can be good, in short, but only if it has to be a meeting. ” – Claire Moses, a morning writer
For more: Do chance encounters in the office really stimulate innovation?