American voters overwhelmingly like the stuff the GOP wants to strip out of Biden’s infrastructure plan

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • A CNBC poll found that just 36% of voters support Biden’s infrastructure plan as is.
  • But most supported funding for nontraditional infrastructure measures, like caregiving and climate.
  • The GOP argues that anything unrelated to physical infrastructure doesn’t belong, but voters seem to disagree.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden unveiled his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package two weeks ago, and a CNBC survey found overwhelming support for it, but only parts of it. That’s where it gets interesting.

According to a CNBC survey released on Thursday, just 36% of Americans supported Biden’s infrastructure plan as he presented it – only three percentage points higher than those who oppose the plan, at 33%. This is about half the level of support that Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan received in similar polling in March.

Since Biden unveiled the plan, Republican lawmakers have attacked his definition of infrastructure, saying that a new bill should focus on physical infrastructure, like roads and brides, and should exclude measures related to the care economy like universal pre-K, as well as things like climate change initiatives. Senate Republicans are drafting a bill focused on roads and bridges, Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported.

The CNBC poll illustrates the catch for Republicans: the nontraditional aspects of Biden’s plan are very popular. This could prove pivotal for its future, as the White House has stressed that its definition of bipartisanship doesn’t focus just on what Republican politicians favor, but on what Republican voters favor as well.

The poll noted that a “31% slice of the public say they don’t know enough to venture an opinion, suggesting an opportunity for each political party to make headway.”

Despite the majority of respondents opposing the president’s plan, an overwhelming majority supported specific funding proposals within the plan.

Of the following four main findings, three are measures the GOP has argued for excluding from the bill:

  • 87% of the public backed fixing roads and bridges;
  • 82% of the public supported increasing pay for elderly caregivers;
  • 78% of the public supported expanding high-speed broadband;
  • And 70% of the public supported fixing the electrical grid and making buildings and homes more energy efficient.

The poll also found that 50% of respondents supported raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% to pay for the plan. When asked about corporate tax hikes generally, 46% said it was a bad idea because it would raise wages and cost jobs, while 43% said corporate tax hikes should be raised to pay for infrastructure because companies “do not pay their fair share.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that while Biden could have drafted a “serious, targeted infrastructure plan” that would have received bipartisan support, “the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration.”

And South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, said during a Fox News interview in early April that she was “shocked” and at how little of Biden’s plan relates to infrastructure, although her comments indicated that she is unclear on what constitutes physical infrastructure.

“It goes into research and development, it goes into housing and pipes and different initiatives, green energy, and it’s not really an honest conversation that we’re having about what this proposal is,” Noem said.

John Bolten, chief executive officer of Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of the largest US companies, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that the organization wants Biden to limit the scope of the package to mainly address roads and bridges and “leave the rest of the stuff for something else.”

He added, though, that “more modern infrastructure” also needs investment, citing broadband as an example.

Biden’s Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Cecilia Rouse said on April 3 that America needs an upgraded definition of infrastructure to meet “the needs of a 21st-century economy.”

A New York Times poll released on Thursday found that 64% of voters approve of Biden’s infrastructure plan, 84% of voters support rebuilding roads and bridges, and 78% support expanded broadband.

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Biden’s economic advisor says America needs an updated definition of infrastructure

Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, answers a question as she sits near an exhibit titled, "In the Nation's Service? Woodrow Wilson Revisited," Sunday, April 3, 2016, at the school in Princeton, N.J. As Princeton University officials weigh whether to remove alumnus and former President Woodrow Wilson's name from its public policy school, the college is launching an exhibit meant to more fully air his legacy. The Nobel Peace Prize winner heralded as a progressive hero has also faced criticism as a racist who encouraged segregation in his administration. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Cecilia Rouse.

  • CEA Chair Cecilia Rouse said infrastructure needs an upgraded definition to better fit the times.
  • She told CBS News that jobs will be created from work on roads and bridges, along with research and development.
  • The GOP says Biden’s infrastructure plan focuses on too many things besides physical infrastructure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amidst partisan disagreements on what the word “infrastructure” encompasses, the chair of President Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors, Cecilia Rouse, said on Saturday that the term itself could use an upgrade.

In an interview with CBS News, Rouse discussed how Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan unveiled last week will help boost the economy and add millions of good-paying jobs. The plan includes not only funding for roads and bridges, but also $174 billion for electric vehicles, $100 billion for broadband, and additional investments that address innovation, climate change, and more.

Rouse said these kinds of investments are just what the country needs right now.

“I think it’s important that we upgrade our definition of infrastructure,” Rouse said. “One that meets the needs of a 21st-century economy. And that means we need to be funding and incentivizing those structures that allow us to maximize our economic activity.”

Funding electric vehicles is important because of the urgency of climate change, Rouse said, and the cost of inaction on the climate later is greater than the cost of acting on climate change now.

Rouse’s arguments echo the White House fact sheet released on Wednesday ahead of Biden’s unveiling of the plan. It argued that, just as the 1936 Rural Electrification Act involved a federal investment in bringing electricity to nearly every home in the US, it’s time to do the same for broadband internet and electric vehicles.

Biden said on Friday that the plan would create 19 million jobs, citing an estimate from Moody’s Analytics. Rouse said most of those jobs will be coming from “traditional infrastructure,” meaning those who will build the roads and bridges, but they will also come from research and development, which received $180 billion in the plan.

Since even before Biden officially introduced his infrastructure plan, Republican lawmakers have criticized it for doing too much and focusing on things they consider physical infrastructure, namely roads and bridges.

For example, after releasing a statement last week calling the plan “a major missed opportunity,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the plan will get zero GOP votes in the Senate because it’s a “Trojan horse” for liberal priorities. He also opposes the proposed $3.5 trillion in tax hikes to fund the plan.

And on Thursday, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota voiced her opposition to plan, saying that it funds things that don’t qualify as infrastructure, naming housing and pipes as two examples. This sparked a round of criticism online and from left-leaning media figures, who argued that pipes are a core component of any country’s infrastructure.

As Insider previously reported, Republicans and Democrats’ definitions of infrastructure may differ in part because of regional political polarization, as Democrats tend to live in cities and dense suburbs, which Biden’s plan focuses on closely. But even so, a Morning Consult/Politico poll showed that many Republican voters support these aspects of Biden’s plan, such as low-income housing.

“I don’t think you’ll find a Republican today in the House or Senate – maybe I’m wrong, gentlemen – who doesn’t think we have to improve our infrastructure,” Biden said in his speech unveiling the plan on Wednesday. “They know China and other countries are eating our lunch. So there’s no reason why it can’t be bipartisan again. The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future.”

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