UPDATED 4:00 PM PT – Saturday, April 17, 2021
Joe Biden is set to address both chambers of Congress with a speech that many expect will focus heavily on his proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. Democrat leadership now faces a difficult situation to uphold Biden’s promise of bipartisanship while passing an infrastructure package with massive spending on social issues.
Republicans have argued the infrastructure package focuses far too much on non-infrastructure-related social items, like eldercare and family care.
“It is pretty clear it’s about a whole lot of things other than infrastructure,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.
In response, Republicans under the direction of Sen. Shelly Moore-Capito (R-W.Va.) have begun work on an $800 billion infrastructure package, which would focus on more traditional forms of infrastructure.
Though Democrats have signaled they would like the bill to have bipartisan support, they could also use the process of budget reconciliation to pass the massive infrastructure bill with only 50 Senate votes.
However, Democrats need to look like they want bipartisan support because ignoring their Republican colleagues could leave a bad taste in the public’s mouth.
“Are they really wanting to work with us?” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has questioned. “But it sure sounds like they don’t.”
Simply put, Biden’s upcoming address to Congress on infrastructure will be an opportunity to demonstrate bipartisan cooperation as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will be giving out a limited number of tickets to lawmakers that can attend the address.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the Speaker’s Office would handle the invites. The limited amount of 200 people allowed to attend is reportedly due to guidelines put in place by the House attending physician.
Those in attendance will likely include key Republicans from the House and Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. Seeing as how these committees will review the package before passing it on to the House and Senate, Pelosi may give them tickets to make their presence known.
However, the Democrats may not necessarily need Republican support.
When Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was asked during an NBC interview: “You’re going to get a shot at a second reconciliation bill, which means another big bill that can pass with 50 votes — How big of a game-changer is that?” Sanders responded: “It’s a pretty big deal.”
Reconciliation will also allow Senate Democrats to bypass a likely filibuster attempt from Republicans. Democrats have attempted to use any opportunity they can to appear bipartisan, when in reality, the bill will likely be passed without Republican support.
This means you can expect some influential Republicans on the House and Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committees to be in attendance at Biden’s big speech. However, the chances of them ever supporting Biden’s proposal are few and far between.