As Democrats continue to expand their definition of infrastructure, White House chief of staff Ron Klain reined in what qualified as infrastructure in 2017 under the Trump administration.
Klain was arguing against using tax incentives to foster public-private partnerships on infrastructure projects.
The tax breaks, he said, would help with “things like pipelines and utility projects,” but “would do nothing to really fix our roads, fix our bridges, fix our water systems, the kind of things most Americans think about when they say we need more infrastructure spending,” Klain told CNBC in 2017.
Support for infrastructure spending has bipartisan support, but Republicans charge President Biden’s $2.2 trillion spending proposal goes far beyond the scope of infrastructure.
Biden, in trying to drum up backing for his bill this week, attempted to redefine infrastructure.
“To automatically say that the only thing that’s infrastructure is a highway, bridge, or whatever, that’s just not rational,” Biden said Wednesday.
He urged Republicans to ask their constituents “what infrastructure they need to build a better life,” rather than outright rejecting the legislation.
“The fact of the matter is that when you’re in a situation where you can’t turn on the water fountain in school, and worry you’re going to drink polluted water that affects your health, replacing all those pipes is infrastructure,” Biden said Monday. “When I’m talking about making sure that you take that asbestos out of schools, that’s infrastructure.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has also mentioned things like schools and pipes that are infrastructure, but further made a case for why money for home-based care is infrastructure.
“It is rebuilding the backbone and the infrastructure of our workforce, because there are 2 million women who are out of the workforce who, hopefully, if we could help them with caregiving, will be able to rejoin,” she said.
A Fox News analysis, which counted investments fitting a generous definition of infrastructure found that just under $750 billion of Biden’s plan consists of it. That’s less than 40%.
Included in that count is building and repairing facilities and systems used by the general public, including pipes, schools, broadband, Amtrak, investments in infrastructure resilience and more.
Other items included in the plan that are not infrastructure are $213 billion directed at home sustainability and public housing; $174 on electric vehicles; $400 billion on home-based care for the elderly and disabled; $50 billion on “research infrastructure” at the National Science Foundation, and much more.
Other Democrats have also joined in, arguing that it’s incorrect to exclude things like home care and R&D from the definition of infrastructure.
“Roads and bridges are built, predominately, by men. Care work is done, predominately, by women,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., said. “Those who say the former is infrastructure while the latter is not are telling on themselves.”
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand said: “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure,” the New York Democrat wrote on Twitter.
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