GOP senators, some of whom Biden will host in the Oval Office on Thursday as he seeks a bipartisan infrastructure deal, have rejected them outright. Some Democrats, cognizant of the political backlash past increases have wrought, have quietly warned of their unease.
Top business lobbying groups are already laying the groundwork to attack the proposals and considering the kind of moneyed opposition that simply didn’t materialize in Biden’s successful $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan.
But to view those increases through a purely political or even technical policy lens is to miss what animates Biden’s attachment to them, close advisers say.
Biden’s calculated decision to spend the past two weeks highlighting those increases in nearly every public appearance, in some of the most impassioned and personal terms, reveals his deep-seated belief that they are more than just a way to pay for his $4 trillion legislative agenda. According to top advisers, the President’s tax proposal is an issue of fairness and Biden is not shy about explaining why it’s a necessity in this moment, even if the current political landscape would lead many politicians to reconsider such a plan.
“Conviction really drives him,” one of his closest advisers, Mike Donilon, told CNN in an interview. “It’s a core conviction that’s reflected in policy choices.”
That conviction will be put to the test as the President dives back into bipartisan talks over an infrastructure package he has proposed financing through corporate tax increases. The six Senate Republicans slated to visit the Oval Office Thursday have each made clear that tax increases are a non-starter.
“Clearly, Senate Republicans are not interested in revisiting the 2017 tax bill,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said after a nearly two-hour Oval Office meeting with Biden that included his House counterparty, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. “We both made that clear to the President. That’s our red line.”
‘Not even a tiny little bit’
Biden has made clear he wants to see if there’s space for a deal. He’s even told advisers he sees benefits for the country for a bipartisan physical infrastructure agreement, even one much smaller than the $2.3 trillion he has proposed.
White House officials and key Democrats in Congress have been exploring different vehicles and pathways to pursue a bipartisan measure, officials say. Some Democrats have urged the White House to view infrastructure as long-term investment, one that doesn’t need to be financed on the front end.
It’s something White House officials say they haven’t taken off the table, though one senior administration official said it’s not something Biden personally has warmed to at this point.
For now, only two red lines have been set.
“The President’s red lines are inaction and are anything that would raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week.
But if the last several weeks are any indication, the idea that Biden would back off his proposed method for financing that proposal is exceedingly unlikely.
Biden has delved into what he sees as the overarching story of his tax proposals in nearly every public appearance since his prime-time address to a joint session of Congress in increasingly personal and off-the-cuff terms. He’s taken to ad-libbing lines in his prepared remarks to underscore that he’s not out to punish the rich but that he instead sees it as necessary to rebalance the current US economic system.
“We’re not going to deprive these executives their second or third home, travel privately by jet,” Biden told reporters last week. “It’s not going to affect their standard of living at all. Not a little tiny bit. But I can affect the standard of living that people I grew up with.”
He’s willing to comp
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