No threat planned on deal, says Biden

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WASHINGTON – Aiming to preserve a bipartisan infrastructure deal, President Joe Biden approved it “without hesitation” on Saturday, waiving a veto threat if Congress also does not pass an even bigger package to extend the net social security.

Biden said he didn’t want to suggest in previous remarks that he would veto the nearly $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill unless Congress also passes a $ 4 trillion package. dollars that he and his fellow Democrats aim to endorse along party lines.

Speaking moments on Thursday after realizing his hopes of reaching a bipartisan deal, Biden appeared to endanger the deal with his comment that the infrastructure bill should follow the larger bill.

Although Biden has made it clear that he will continue with new spending on child care, health insurance and other investments, Republicans have been hesitant about the president not signing one. without the other. “If that’s the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said of the infrastructure bill then. “It’s in tandem.”

On Saturday, Biden sought to clarify those comments, after senior negotiators Steve Ricchetti and Louisa Terrell worked to assure senators that Biden remained enthusiastic about the deal.

“My comments also gave the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intention,” Biden said in a statement.

“I intend to vigorously pursue the adoption of this plan, on which Democrats and Republicans agreed on Thursday,” Biden added. “It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people. I fully support it without reservation or hesitation.”

Biden’s previous remarks had drawn strong criticism from some Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who tweeted Friday: “No deal by extortion!” Others felt “blinded” by what they said was a change in their understanding of his position.

Tensions appeared to subside afterwards, when senators from the negotiating group called a conference call, according to a person who requested anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

“I hope we always get there,” said Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the top Republican negotiator, in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. “Our infrastructure is in bad shape.”

Biden was due to travel to Wisconsin on Tuesday for the first stop on a nationwide tour to promote the infrastructure package, the White House said.

The sudden swings point to the hard road ahead for what promises to be a long process to turn Biden’s nearly $ 4 trillion worth of infrastructure proposals into law.

Both measures were still expected to move forward together in Congress: the bipartisan plan and a second bill that would move forward under special rules allowing passage only with majority Democratic votes. Biden reiterated it was his plan on Saturday, but said he was not conditioning one on the other.

“So, to be clear,” his statement said, “our bipartisan deal does not prevent Republicans from trying to derail my plan for families; likewise, they should have no objection to my dedicated efforts to push through. this plan for families and other proposals in tandem. “

Before his clarification on Saturday, not all senators were swayed by the White House outreach, which came after a tumultuous month of intermittent negotiations over Biden’s legislative priority.

The Democrats’ two-way strategy has been to look at both the bipartisan deal and their own broader priorities side by side, to assure the Liberals that the smaller deal will not be the only one.

A bipartisan deal has been important to the White House as it tries to show centrist Democrats and others that it is working with Republicans before Biden tries to push the bigger package through Congress.

Ten Republican senators would be needed to pass the bipartisan agreement in the Senate at 50-50, where 60 votes are needed to move most bills forward.

While senators from the bipartisan group are among the most independent lawmakers known to oppose their party leadership, it appears that criticism of Biden’s approach by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, could withdraw support from the GOP.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers are proposing to increase affordable housing in the United States by 2 million units over the next decade by expanding a key tax credit under Biden’s program on the employment and the economy.

The Affordable Housing Improvement Act of 2021, led by Representatives Suzan DelBene and Jackie Walorski, would permanently increase tax credit allocations to states, allow states to fund more projects by relaxing funding requirements through bonds and extend grants to underserved communities.

Supporters say the measures could significantly reduce a U.S. housing deficit that has reached nearly 4 million units, according to Freddie Mac. While the plan shares many of the goals of Biden’s infrastructure proposal, which targets 2 million new homes over the next eight years, it uses different tactics.

DelBene, a Democrat from Washington, and Walorski, a Republican from Indiana, want to make their bill the main proposal as Congress examines housing legislation beyond the limits of the infrastructure deal reached Thursday.

“We look forward to working with the administration to put this in the package,” DelBene said in an interview last week.

As part of his U.S. Jobs Plan, Biden requested $ 318 billion in spending on housing, including $ 105 billion in tax credits.

Unlike the administration’s broad approach, the lawmakers’ proposal focuses on the low-income housing tax credit, which has supported 90% of federally funded affordable housing since its inception in 1986. .

Its track record as a public-private partnership, said a congressional adviser, makes tax incentives the best available vehicle for rapidly expanding affordable housing. A previous version of the bill garnered broad bipartisan support at the last Congress.

The biggest boost hoped for would allow states to accelerate their development by halving the share of costs that must be financed by private activity obligations. These bonds, which are primarily used for affordable housing, are oversubscribed in more than a dozen states, said Michael Novogradac, managing partner of Novogradac & Co.

The bond market has become hypercompetitive in places like California, he said, where demand exceeds supply for the second year in a row.

The bill would also expand the pool of money available for financing affordable housing by making permanent a 12.5% ​​increase in state tax credit allocations approved in 2018, with a 50% increase in that number. gradually over the next two years.

This is an accelerated timeline compared to a 2019 version of the legislation, which gradually introduced the increase over five years – a reflection of the overlapping housing crises that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, said the assistant.

Other provisions that lawmakers want to include in the infrastructure deal include prohibiting state agencies from letting local contributions or political support influence project selection, DelBene said.

This measure is aimed at countering local opposition, often known as NIMBYism – for the feeling of not being in my backyard – which often blocks the development of affordable housing. The bill would increase the amount of grants available for projects aimed at rural, tribal and very low-income tenants, thereby making more development possible in areas that often struggle to launch new projects.

These increases could be useful in underserved markets, although they are just one of a series of programs that have been historically underfunded, said Corianne Payton Scally, a researcher at the Urban Institute.

Biden’s U.S. Jobs Plan would increase funding for some of these programs, including investments in rural areas and public housing. His original plan also called for a new tax credit focused on homeownership and a $ 55 billion increase in the social housing credit.

The tax credit “certainly deserves attention and is certainly a big part of the solution,” Scally said. “But I think it would be detrimental not to recognize that we have a continuum of programs for a reason. They serve different purposes and they often work together to provide access to families who need them most.”

Information for this article was provided by Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller, Darlene Superville, Josh Boak, Kevin Freking, and Dan Sewell of The Associated Press; and by MacKenzie Hawkins of Bloomberg News (TNS).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, June 24, 2021. A bipartisan group of lawmakers negotiated a plan to pay off an estimated 1,000 compromise plan billions of dollars. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

Senatorial Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Wraps up a cable interview before the start of a two-week hiatus at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Earlier, President Joe Biden announced a bipartisan agreement on a clean infrastructure plan that would tackle its top legislative priority and validate its efforts to cross the political aisle.  (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

Senatorial Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Wraps up a cable interview before the start of a two-week hiatus at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. Earlier, President Joe Biden announced a bipartisan agreement on a clean infrastructure plan that would tackle its top legislative priority and validate its efforts to cross the political aisle. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

President Joe Biden speaks on infrastructure negotiations in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Washington.  (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks on infrastructure negotiations in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)


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