After American Jobs plan, DeLauro pushes Biden for major 'social safety net' upgrade

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NEW HAVEN, CT - MARCH 26: (L-R) Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) greets U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris upon arrival at Tweed-New Haven Airport on March 26, 2021 in New Haven, Connecticut. Harris is traveling to New Haven, Connecticut to promote the Biden administration's recently passed $1.9 billion federal stimulus package. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

NEW HAVEN, CT - MARCH 26: (L-R) Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) greets U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris upon arrival at Tweed-New Haven Airport on March 26, 2021 in New Haven, Connecticut. Harris is traveling to New Haven, Connecticut to promote the Biden administration's recently passed $1.9 billion federal stimulus package. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON — As President President Joe Biden’s unveiled his $2 trillion infrastructure plan Wednesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top House Democrat in charge of federal spending, praised the huge investments to improve the nation’s roads, schools, power grid and manufacturing, but she’s already thinking what’s not included.

“I want to make sure that the care-giving economy is infrastructure,” DeLauro said Wednesday. “That needs to be funded.”

Biden is expected to unveil a second proposal, his American Families Plan, in mid-April that would focus on for child care, education and reducing health care costs.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro

Contributed Photo

DeLauro said she expects the American Families Plan will make community college free, implement universal pre-kindergarten and a federal paid family and medical leave program. She said the package will also improve wages and professional development for child-care workers and she will push for it to make the expanded child tax credit permanent.

Several of these proposals are ones that DeLauro has been trying to pass for years. With a Democratic president, slim Democratic majorities in Congress and DeLauro holding the Appropriations Committee gavel, now they have a shot.

“We are going to take up the social safety net or the care-giving infrastructure in the next package, so I am fine with that,” she said. “I’m going to work to really see both of these packages include those things that I think are priorities.”

There’s already talk on Capitol Hill about whether these social programs will soon be lumped into the Biden’s infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, out of concerns that passing a third legislative package — after pushing the American Jobs Plan through Congress and the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill — will prove impossible. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is reportedly exploring how often many times he is permitted use a budget process called reconciliation to pass legislation without Republican votes.

DeLauro said she was “not sure” whether the two packages would be combined into one piece of legislation down the road. She indicated that separating Biden’s Jobs Plan from his social safety net proposals could have been a strategy to win “bipartisan support,” although progressives want Biden to do both things.

Already it’s clear Biden’s Jobs Plan is unlikely to win Republican votes, never mind the American Families Plan Biden will propose next.

Republican Sen. John Barasso of Wyoming told Fox News Wednesday his party wants investment in roads, bridges and ports — but they don’t want corporate taxes increases to pay for it and they don’t support all the other policies on the table.

“This is a Trojan horse, what the Democrats are doing for more liberal spending and much higher taxes,” Barasso said. “They want to all sorts of social things. They want to do free community college, free daycare, free senior care and then of course the punishing regulations of the Green New Deal.”

Top Democrats in Congress will have a lot of say over whether the social infrastructure proposals are added to the American Jobs Plan because ultimately, they will write the legislation that will pass through Congress and then head to Biden’s desk for a signature. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to pass the American Jobs Plan by July 4.

At the moment, Biden’s American Jobs plan calls for massive spending on transportation, clean energy, school construction, the senior care-giving industry and research and development, paid for by corporate tax increases.

The plan directs about $450 billion toward road, bridge, rail and airport construction, including $80 billion for Amtrak to make repairs and modernize the Northeast Corridor. It includes $213 billion for housing investments, $111 billion to upgrade drinking water systems, $100 billion to improve broadband coverage and $100 billion for workforce development.

The plan is also a climate bill, making huge investments in putting more electric vehicles on the roads, weatherizing buildings, investing in renewable energy research and infrastructure and encouraging purchasing of more low-emission energy and transportation options.

Advocates for more “social safety net” investments are pleased that the plan includes $400 billion to expand access to home and community-based care for seniors and the disabled. The plan also allots $137 billion to upgrade public schools, community colleges and build more child care facilities.

All this construction will be done by union workers, Biden said, who included in the package a proposal to bolster the right to organize.

“I have supported many of these efforts at the state level here in Connecticut, with specific focus on closing the digital divide, making historic investments in offshore wind, fighting for a cleaner environment, and pushing our state to invest in bridges, roads, and public transit,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday. “This leadership in Washington is exactly how our state and nation will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever before.”

Biden proposes paying for these investments over 15 years by corporate tax changes. Those include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, setting a global minimum corporate tax, taking steps to block off-shoring of jobs and increasing tax enforcement against companies.

The bill does not currently include any changes to taxes for individuals. Some Democrats, like Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., said he will not vote for the bill unless it repeals the state and local tax deduction cap, set at $10,000 by the Trump administration.

“I would like to see that repealed,” DeLauro said. “I’m not going to say I’m not going to vote for this package. Let’s just see the way it ultimately comes out.”

emilie.munson@hearstdc.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson