Mar 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden faces roadblocks on next agenda moves

Joe Biden looking down.
President Biden speaks yesterday on the Atlanta killings. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden’s next big moves require two things Republicans hate — new taxes and new filibuster limits. Both will make the $1.9 trillion spending bill look easy and calm.

Why it matters: Biden wants to reform voting laws and dramatically increase infrastructure spending. It's doubtful Republicans will rush to truly help on either front.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to blow up the Senate to preserve the legislative filibuster rule, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is opposed to eliminating it.

  • McConnell writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today: "If Democrats kill the filibuster by 50-50 vote, they’ll release furies they can barely imagine. ... Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like."

Senate Democrats who want to eliminate the filibuster, which would allow them to pass legislation by simple majority, don't have a plan for flipping Manchin — and he may be immovable.

  • Manchin, who represents a very red and Trumpy state, has said repeatedly and emphatically that he won’t get rid of the filibuster — that he respects the rights of the minority.

Axios conversations with lawmakers over the past few days have picked up an emerging theme — moral pressure.

  • Some Democrats believe that by making this about Manchin’s legacy — Does he want to stand in the way of major voting-rights legislation? — they can overcome his entrenched opposition.
  • Manchin would be more powerful if Democrats got rid of the filibuster. You'd need 50 votes — he would get to decide everything. With 60, the current threshold for most legislation, he's less powerful.

To partially pay for Biden's coming infrastructure package, he'll need to jack up taxes on corporations and the wealthy — with some of Washington's most powerful forces opposed.

  • Look for Biden/Democrats to focus on raising the corporate tax rate to 28% and the highest tax bracket back to 39.6%, aides tell us.

The Business Roundtable "will be actively opposing efforts to raise corporate taxes," president and CEO Josh Bolten told reporters last week.

  • Caroline Harris, vice president of tax policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Hans Nichols in Axios Sneak Peek: "Everyone loves infrastructure until you have to figure out how to pay for it."
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