Senate Democrats on Wednesday attempted to ramp up pressure on Republicans to vote for the president’s $60 billion infrastructure proposal, even though the measure is likely to fall to filibuster.
The plan would put “hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work constructing thousands of miles of roads and bridges, runways and train tracks,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor.
The Nevada Democrat has scheduled a cloture vote on taking up the proposal for Thursday, but action could come sooner if an agreement is reached to do so.
The proposal would provide $50 billion for transportation infrastructure funding, including $27 billion for highways, $9 billion for transit, $2 billion for airports, and $10 billion for innovative financing initiatives.
The proposal also includes $10 billion for the creation of a national infrastructure bank to direct federal resources for infrastructure to projects that demonstrate the most merit and might be difficult to fund under the current patchwork of federal programs.
The bill would be paid for with a 0.7 percent tax on millionaires, a proposal Republicans have repeatedly refused to support.
“So, tomorrow, my Republican colleagues will face a choice,” Reid said. “Who will Republicans put first — the millions of ordinary Americans struggling to find work and put food on the table? Or the millionaires and billionaires whose biggest problem is that they may have to pay an additional $7,000 on the second million they make each year?”
Reid’s comments came as President Barack Obama spoke near the Key Bridge in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C., where he called on Congressional leaders, specifically Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to pass his infrastructure proposal.
“I can’t imagine that Speaker Boehner wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges is classified as substandard. I’m sure that the Speaker of the House would want to have bridges and roads in his state that are up to par,” Obama said. “When the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, visited that closed bridge in Kentucky that I was talking about, he admitted: ‘Look, roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.’ That’s a quote from him.”
But with Republicans opposed to providing additional stimulus to the economy unless it is offset, the bill is expected to fail to win the 60 votes needed to cut off debate.
“What Republicans have been saying is that if we truly want to help improve the situation we’re in, if we really want to turn this ship around, then we need to learn from our mistakes and take a different approach,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “We know what policies haven’t worked. What sense does it make to try those same policies again? None.
“It’s not exactly a state secret that Republicans — and, yes, some Democrats — don’t think we should be raising taxes right now on the very people we’re counting on to create the jobs we need to get us out of a jobs crisis,” McConnell continued. “And yet the one thing that every single proposal Democrats bring to the floor has in common is that it does just that.”
At another press conference touting the infrastructure bill, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he would support other ways to fund the proposal, such as savings from ramping down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manchin had raised concerns about using the millionaire’s tax to pay for a White House proposal defeated by the Senate earlier this month to provide $35 billion to help state and local governments keep teachers and first responders on the job.
“This is one I agree with wholeheartedly,” Manchin said when asked about the offset for infrastructure spending. But he added that he would be open to other options.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.