President Joe Biden was expected Friday to propose a $6 trillion budget funding his ambitious makeover of the economy in 2022 while driving the United States into record debt — if he can get it past Congress.
The president’s annual budget is more a wish list or a message on his priorities than anything else. Congress ultimately decides what money goes where and the current Congress has only the narrowest Democratic majority.
But the massive plan signals the White House’s determination to put hard numbers on Biden’s hugely ambitious campaign to combine the forces of the federal government and business in an existential contest with China for supremacy.
The Democrat, who is due to speak at two public events later Friday, has already made clear where the lion’s share of that expected $6 trillion price tag should go.
One huge chunk would be an infrastructure bill originally proposed at $2.3 trillion but since whittled down to $1.7 trillion in negotiations with Congress. Another $1.8 trillion would go on increased state-funded education and social services — all, Biden argues, part of building a better 21st century workforce.
According to The New York Times, the Biden blueprint would increase federal spending even more in the coming years, hitting $8.2 trillion in 2031.
With the tax dollar spigots opened that wide, deficits would be forecast to surpass $1.3 trillion throughout the next decade, according to the report.
Can it pass?
The budget proposal is being unveiled just ahead of the long Memorial Day weekend and with Congress heading out on a week’s recess.
The timing may dampen the immediate furore on Capitol Hill where many Democrats want Biden to use his control of Congress to push transformational legislation and Republicans are playing hardball in trying to block most of what the president proposes.
Spending priorities are just one area of division.
For example, Republicans are pretty much unanimous in opposing Biden’s broad definition of infrastructure to include broadband technology, green energy, and social programs.
But there’s even less agreement on how to pay for it all.
Biden wants to raise money by ending a corporate tax cut Republicans passed under his predecessor Donald Trump. He also wants to go aggressively after tax loopholes used by the ultra-wealthy and large corporations.
Republicans refuse to accept this and say their own, more modest infrastructure spending plans, could be paid for by reallocating unspent money already budgeted.
Despite the standoff — and the sheer scale of Biden’s mega budget — the White House still has a potential ace up its sleeve in that slim Democratic majority.
Ordinarily, Biden needs at least 10 Republicans to cross over in the evenly split Senate, a tall order at the best of times. However, if Democrats remain unanimous — which is also not guaranteed — they may be able to pass the budget through a fast-track procedure known as reconciliation.