‘I’m not going to get into legislative tactics’: Klain sidesteps reconciliation debate amid infrastructure rollout

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White House chief of staff Ron Klain dodged Thursday on whether congressional Democrats would work to pass President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan through the reconciliation process, potentially skirting the 60-vote threshold required by the Senate filibuster.

“Look, I think what we want to do is get this passed,” Klain told POLITICO Playbook in a virtual interview. “And I think that starts with a conversation with a broad array of members in both parties to see where the support is [and] how this looks as we move it through the process. That’s our first goal.”

As the White House embarks on the next phase of its ambitious legislative agenda, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is preparing to revisit the reconciliation tool that allowed Democrats to approve a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last month without Republican support.

The complex budgetary maneuver would permit Senate Democrats to pass Biden’s expansive infrastructure plan with a simple majority in the chamber. But Klain declined Thursday to comment on whether the White House had already determined it would seek to bypass the filibuster, saying he was “not going to get into legislative tactics today.”

“We just launched this plan yesterday,” he said. “Congress is out of session. We’re going to start to bring members down here physically … after this Easter break and talk to Congress — talk to members of the House and Senate, Democrats, Republicans about how they want to move forward. We want to move forward, if it’s at all possible, on a bipartisan basis, and I think there’s some hope for that.”

Biden unveiled his infrastructure plan at an event Wednesday in Pittsburgh, laying out a series of investments in roads, bridges and transit — as well as improved access to clean water, broadband and elder and disability care. The administration has proposed paying for the legislation with a rewrite of the corporate tax code, including raising the amount paid by businesses from 21 percent to 28 percent.

“Look, I think these are national needs. And as the president has said, people have to decide if they’re going to deliver or divide. And we intend to deliver,” Klain said Thursday. “And when I talk to Republicans, I see that they want to deliver, too.”

Republicans in Congress have blasted Biden’s effort to reverse the corporate component of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, and progressive Democrats have complained the administration’s infrastructure plan is not far-reaching enough. But Klain indicated the White House would not be deterred by congressional criticism.

“In the end, let me be clear: The president was elected to do a job,” he said. “And part of that job is to get this country ready to win the future. That’s what he’s going to do.”

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