On Joe Biden’s jobs and families plans, America needs Republican Party to ante up

You’re reading Our View, one of two perspectives in Today’s Debate.

For the Opposing View by Sen. Tim Scott, read Biden ignoring Republican bipartisan efforts, forcing progressive policies

If American governance is a competition of ideas, President Joe Biden appears to be winning.

Or more accurately, he has shown up for the contest with serious proposals on restoring infrastructure, addressing climate change, improving the education and lives of children, and offering the middle class greater opportunities to succeed.

The other side, by contrast, is pretty much missing in action or, at most, throwing up roadblocks. “One hundred percent of my focus is standing up to this administration,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “What we have in the United States Senate is total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.”

Instead of ideas, petty lies

Republican members of Congress have been repeating petty lies that Biden will take away people’s hamburgers or that Vice President Kamala Harris is peddling her children’s book to migrant shelters at the border. Or they have been twisting the adjective “woke” into a pejorative. McConnell has crafted fiction that Biden is trying to “nudge” Americans toward the kind of jobs, cars and child care only Democrats prefer. 

It’s all such nonsense.  

Nothing in Biden’s infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, requires Americans to do anything. 

What it does is acknowledge the indisputable science that the planet is growing warmer from the burning of fossil fuels, and that hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created with investments in clean energy, a revitalized electric grid, affordable (through tax incentives) electric cars and erecting more car-charging stations.

Incidentally, two-thirds of Americans say the government should do more to fight climate change.

From left, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy in April 2021 at a ceremony on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/Pool photo)

What do Republicans ante up in response?   

The same tired tropes. In his rebuttal to the president’s address to a joint session of Congress last month, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., mocked Biden’s blueprint for education and support for children, his American Families Plan, as cradle-to-college nanny care. But the plan is nothing of the sort.

Choices resonating with Americans

Rather, it’s a series of federal investments aimed at improving lives and offering families choices that preliminary surveys show resonate with Americans – including by one survey a large majority of Democrats and independents and a third of Republicans. 

For example, Biden proposes spending $225 billion to help families with child care expenses. The problem with a shortage of affordable child care became painfully clear during the pandemic, when centers were closed. The impact fell disproportionately on women, who were left to choose between work and caring for their children. Biden’s plan would spend $200 billion to provide free universal preschool, something that studies for decades have shown beyond any doubt prepares children of all economic backgrounds with the tools to succeed in school. Another $225 billion would provide workers with paid family and medical leave, benefits the United States alone lacks among industrialized nations. 

These are ideas worth debating that are aimed at addressing real-life needs of middle- and lower-income working families. With rare exceptions – such as Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s proposed Family Security Act, which would provide cash benefits  – what does the GOP offer as rebuttal other than to simply say no? 

Americans are not only signaling they like Biden’s ideas, but they also find appealing his way of paying for them with a hike in the corporate tax rate for the infrastructure proposal and higher taxes on the very wealthy for the American Families Plan.

Nonetheless, the overall cost is a whopping $4 trillion, and that’s on top of more than $6 trillion in deficit spending by the Trump and Biden administrations on the pandemic.

America needs the Republican Party

This is where the country needs the services of an engaged opposition party. Biden is to sit Wednesday with top congressional leaders, including McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Democratic leaders have shown willingness to make concessions on what Biden is proposing.

Republicans have traditionally been the party of fiscal restraint and limited government. (Although those principles decayed during the Trump administration’s profligate deficit spending.) But the GOP has also been the party of essential needs, advocating a strong military and vital infrastructure, as when the interstate highway system was created under President Dwight Eisenhower at a cost of $500 billion in today’s dollars and paid for with a tax on gasoline.

A recent Republican counter deal on solely physical infrastructure needs such as restoring roads, bridges, rails, airports and water systems offered – after routine expenditure commitments are stripped – only 24 cents on every dollar proposed by Biden, not nearly enough to meet national demand.

The nation is best served by two vibrant and competing parties willing to engage in serious negotiation on issues Americans say they truly care about. The two plans Biden has put forth focus on those same issues. Now there needs to be compromise on how much to spend and how to pay for it.

It’s a competition of ideas, and the Republican Party needs to bring its best game.

USA TODAY’s editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff and the USA TODAY Network. Most editorials are coupled with an Opposing View, a unique USA TODAY feature.

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