Americans are overwhelmingly in support of Joe Biden’s planned tax hike on corporations and the wealthy to pay for new infrastructure projects, despite Republican opposition in Congress, new polls have shown.
The US president earlier this week announced a “once-in-a-generation” $3trillion infrastructure proposal that would be funded by tax increases on companies and those earning over $400,000 (£290,000).
Mr Biden’s plan is a test of his belief that he can generate popular backing across the country even as conservatives seek to block him on Capitol Hill.
A Morning Consult/Politico poll on Thursday found that by a two-to-one margin voters prefer an infrastructure bill that includes Mr Biden’s proposed tax increases than those that do not, confounding expectation.
Only 27 per cent support infrastructure without tax hikes, which broadly represents the GOP’s stance.
It also found that voters support this expanded notion of infrastructure, with measures like increasing housing options for low-income families garnering the support of 70 per cent of registered voters, including 87 per cent of Democrats and 53 per cent of Republicans.
The idea of repairing and building roads, bridges, railways, ports and airports is appealing to the general public, especially since much of America’s infrastructure dates back to the 1950s and is generally considered to be dilapidated.
In announcing his Build Back Better plan from the former steel town of Pittsburgh, Mr Biden said it was time for big American corporations such as Amazon to start paying their fair share.
In 2017, then-President Donald Trump signed a new bill law that slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 21 per cent. A report out this week found from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that 55 large US companies, including major brands such as Nike, paid no federal taxes last year.
Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer at The Washington Post, claimed that the Republican framing of policy did not match reality. “There is not a hue and cry over a mammoth infrastructure bill. To the contrary, it is super popular. And Republicans might want to stop harping on the tax increases: Those make the bill even more popular,” she wrote in her column “Biden might just understand public opinion better than his critics”.
Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, and other senior Republicans have branded the bill a liberal “wish list” of wasteful spending.
Meanwhile, progressives in the president’s own party are urging him to “think bigger”, proposing $10 trillion in spending.
The Biden administration will likely use what is known as “budget reconciliation” to pass the bill with 51 votes in the narrowly divided Senate, effectively bypassing Republican opposition.
Budget reconciliation is an arcane procedural tool in the Senate that allows the majority party to get over the 60-vote threshold of the Senate filibuster and pass certain kinds of bills on a simple majority.
The Democrats could, in theory, set up three separate reconciliation bills: one for taxes, one for spending, and one for the federal debt limit.
Mr Biden has been polling high on the economy, as he has on his tackling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The president’s approval lands at 72 per cent for his handling of the coronavirus, higher than the 68 per cent of Americans who said the same earlier this month just before Congress passed his record $1.9 trillion relief package – his first major legislative achievement.
Republicans, who no longer control the House or the Senate after spectacular upsets at the election, attempted in vain to block the stimulus bill.
Mr Biden, at the same time, is facing some early tests in his first two months in office, finding himself underwater for his handling of gun violence after three mass shootings in a fortnight and the surge of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, which has brought at least 18,000 unaccompanied children into US custody.