WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday defended his $2 trillion infrastructure package against Republican criticism that the plan is too broad and costly, vowing to "push as hard as I can" to pass the proposal.
Biden, speaking to reporters at the White House after returning from a weekend at Camp David, took aim at concerns raised by congressional Republican leaders who have argued that the package is too massive, and should primarily focus on traditional infrastructure needs such repairing roads, bridges and transportation hubs.
The President’s plan, unveiled last Wednesday, calls for more than $600 billion to address transportation upgrades to roads, bridges, railways and airports. But the plan also calls for funding to expand broadband internet access nationwide, modernize schools and federal buildings, and increase the use of clean energy sources.
"When I’m talking about making sure that you take that asbestos out of schools, that’s infrastructure," Biden said. "When I’m talking about building high-speed rail, that’s infrastructure. When I'm talking about making sure you're in a situation where we can redo some of the federal buildings that are just absolutely leaking energy every single day, that's infrastructure."
Biden has proposed paying for the eight-year spending plan by raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, but Republicans, who passed a massive overhaul of the tax code under the Trump administration that lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to its current rate, have pushed back against Biden’s proposal.
Biden on Friday said his infrastructure plan could potentially generate 19 million new jobs over the next decade. He appeared to be citing a Moody's Analytics report that offered that same figure. A study by Georgetown University economists projected the plan could generate 15 million jobs over the next 10 years.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), appearing on "Fox News Sunday" suggested that Republicans were more likely to support Biden’s plan if he scaled back the proposal to $615 billion. Blunt argued that only 30% of Biden’s current proposal focuses on traditional physical infrastructure projects.
"I think there’s an easy win here for the White House if they would take that win, which is make this an infrastructure package, which is about 30% — even if you stretch the definition of infrastructure some — it’s about 30% of the $2.25 trillion we are talking about spending," Blunt said.
Other Republican lawmakers including Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have described Biden’s proposal as "not an infrastructure package," but a tax hike on U.S. businesses.
Addressing some of the GOP concerns, Biden said: "It’s kind of interesting that when the Republicans put forward an infrastructure plan, they thought everything from broadband to dealing with other things was in the range of paying for infrastructure. Now they’re saying that there's -- only a small portion of what I'm talking about is infrastructure. ... It’s interesting to see how their definition of infrastructure has changed. But they know ... we need it."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, when asked at Monday’s daily news briefing about the possibility of narrowing the scope of the package, said Biden "disagrees" that not all the elements of the current package, including proposed money to build child care and elderly facilities, qualify as infrastructure.
"Some don't think that building a support system to take care of elderly parents or kids with disabilities at home, so people can go back into the workforce … that that is not investing in the infrastructure, our workforce of this country, that are the backbone of this country," Psaki said.
"The President disagrees … with all that being said, he welcomes their ideas … and he looks forward to having conversations with members of both parties about how to address the long outdated effort to update our infrastructure."