Don’t Count The Chickens Just Yet

This article is being written early Saturday morning and cannot possibly take into account any action(s) between its writing and publishing.

Last week was another with a plethora of legitimate candidates for the biggest political story. I’m selecting infrastructure but with a huge caveat.

Thursday there was a lot of DC fanfare about a deal reached between President Biden and ten senators about a bi-partisan infrastructure deal. It’s much more complicated than that and I’d keep the champagne corked at this point. In fact, I wouldn’t even chill it yet.

The makeup of the group of ten senators – who were really not in complete agreement – is significant in that Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were included. They were the most visible holdouts to doing anything that did have at least the veneer of being bi-partisan.

The plan, as I understand it, is a two bill simultaneous (or as close to that can be achieved) package. The bi-partisan bill would include “traditional infrastructure” – things like roads and bridges. The “recognition of today’s domestic economic situation infrastructure” – things like day care and expanded public education – would be passed via reconciliation. In other words, without any Republican votes. The fact that Manchin and Sinema appear to be willing to accept that as bi-partisan is important.

Any spending bill(s) need congressional approval before they reach Biden’s desk. Nancy Pelosi can pretty much get anything she wants passed in the House. The filibuster and Republican obstruction in the Senate are the problems.

Spending bills must originate in the House. In this case the mechanics are somewhat challenging but can be overcome. The bi-partisan part can follow the normal path assuming there are ten GOP senators who will vote aye. There were only five GOP senators in the group that struck an agreement with Biden. I will take them at their word for now. The questions are: Are there another five or more? Along with, Will Mitch McConnell throw a wrench into the works keeping that number below ten?

Enter Pelosi and the real sausage making. The plan is to basically pass both the bi-partisan and reconciliation bills simultaneously and Biden has pledged that he won’t sign one without the other so they will have to be on his desk together. Pelosi also says she will not have the House pass the reconciliation version until the Senate does. The best I can figure that means that the House will have to pass a version of the reconciliation bill that the Senate would then amend and send back to the House at which point they would have to pass the amended version without any changes. (Something very similar happened with Obamacare and Nancy piloted that so it can be done.) Political nerds like me love stuff like this; most Americans hate it.

The other factor is how this is going to be paid for. The group of ten plus the President talked of no new taxes. The money has to come from somewhere and then there is always paying for the reconciliation package which will not be cheap. Some ideas I have heard are an increased gasoline tax and a user fee for electric vehicles. I am not necessarily opposed to either but that is a tax increase in my mind. Another idea bantered around is increased tax collection by the IRS. I’m certainly in favor of that and there are billions in revenue to be had there but the additional “cops and accountants” will cost money. The return on that investment will be huge, but the initial investment has to be funded. Like education, I look at infrastructure as an investment, not just an expense. If you really love and believe in America why wouldn’t you invest in it? Perhaps the word “if” answers my question when it comes to most elected Republicans.

I hope an expansive infrastructure program is enacted. We spent over $10 trillion bailing out and/or propping up W’s and Trump’s economies. A couple trillion investing in America is a great deal by comparison. Just don’t count it as a done deal yet. There are too many question marks and too many things can go wrong along the way.

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