Corporate Tax Hike Gets a Thumbs-Up in Poll: Stimulus Update

A new poll showed a majority of Americans support President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure and spending plan -- if it’s funded by higher taxes on corporations. A senior Republican said a group of senators is in the “early stages” of discussing a potential counterproposal that would be more narrowly focused and less expensive.

The administration on Wednesday continues its outreach to build support for Biden’s “American Jobs Plan.” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Biden counselor Steve Ricchetti will meet with members of a bipartisan group of House lawmakers to discuss how to accomplish the president’s objectives. The 3 p.m. meeting with the Problem Solvers group follows Biden’s Oval Office confab with bipartisan legislators Monday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has targeted passage of Biden’s plan in her chamber by July 4. Biden is expected to unveil another, social program-focused initiative in coming weeks. The president will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, right before his 100th day in office, in which he’s likely to again tout his push for a ramp up in long-term federal spending.

Corporate Tax Hike Gets Thumbs-Up From Americans (2:40 p.m.)

Many Americans like Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan but they especially like one of the features that most antagonizes congressional Republicans: a partial rollback of Donald Trump’s signature corporate tax cut.

A modest 44% plurality of Americans supports the infrastructure-led spending plan, compared with 38% who oppose it, a Quinnipiac University national poll taken April 8-12 showed. But support swells to 53% -- versus 39% against -- if the plan is funded by raising corporate taxes, as Biden has proposed. Even 22% of Republicans favor the plan if a corporate tax increase is included.

The centerpiece of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts was reducing the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%. Biden’s plan would raise that halfway back, to 28%. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

The poll also showed Biden with a positive 48% to 42% job approval, little changed from mid-February, when Quinnipiac’s survey indicated 50% approval. He received high marks for his handling of the coronavirus, with 64% approving, but poor reviews for his performance on the situation at the Mexican border, with only 29% approving. -- Mike Dorning

Senators Working on Infrastructure Alternative (1:25 p.m.)

Utah Republican Mitt Romney said a bipartisan group of senators is in “early stages” of discussing a pared-down infrastructure proposal including roads, bridges, airports and broadband.

With Democrats criticizing Republicans for rejecting Biden’s plan without offering an alternative, some GOP lawmakers have indicated in recent days a desire to put a proposal together.

Romney said a call among 20 senators from both parties is planned for Thursday, though it’s not clear yet whether a pared-down proposal would just be backed by Republican supporters or have bipartisan support.

He said he would like to include items like roads, bridges, ports, airports and broadband, and said it should be paid for with user fees like a gas tax hike, vehicle miles traveled fee for electric cars, and airport fees.

“The pay-for ought to come from the people who are using it. If it’s an airport, the people who are flying. If it’s a port, the people who are shipping into the port,” he said. “If it’s highways, it ought to be gas if it’s a gasoline powered vehicle. If it’s an electric vehicle some kind of mileage associated with that electric vehicle that would be similar to a gas tax.”

He suggested that the $800 billion figure for an infrastructure package floated earlier Wednesday by West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito still may be too big, even though it would be about one third of what Biden is requesting. -- Steven T. Dennis and Erik Wasson

Senior Republican Floats Infrastructure Total of Up to $800 Billion (11:21 a.m.)

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the top GOP member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said she could see a bipartisan infrastructure package of $600 billion to $800 billion, that forgoes the rolling back of tax cuts on corporations and other parts of the 2017 tax law that the Biden administration has proposed.

Capito said on CNBC Tuesday that Democrats should set aside the bulk of Biden’s $2.25 trillion plan for now, arguing that they could move on other elements of the bigger proposal later on via a partisan budget reconciliation bill.

“If we’re going to do this together -- which we want to do and is our desire -- we’ve got to find those areas and take away the extra infrastructure areas that the president put into his bill like home-health aids and school building and all of these kinds of things,” Capito said.

Other Senate Republicans have expressed support for the concept of a scaled-back infrastructure package focusing more on items like roads and bridges, but have yet to propose a specific package and a way to pay for it.

Capito later Tuesday told Bloomberg that Republicans are talking about their own infrastructure proposal along lines of what she outlined earlier. She said on CNBC that possible ways to pay for the bipartisan plan she sees potential for include a new tax on vehicle miles traveled or a repurposing of funding for Covid-19 relief spending previously enacted. -- Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan

Senate Democrats Urge Unemployment Benefit Boost (9:47 a.m.)

Two Senate Democrats are pushing a plan that would make federal unemployment benefits automatically available when jobless rates climb.

The pitch, developed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon and Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, would include benefit “triggers” that kick in when unemployment rises, with additional weeks of benefits. The plan would also require states to offer 26 weeks of benefits at 75% of the worker’s previous wages, up to a set maximum. Depending on a state’s current benefit levels, that could require an increase to the amount of aid as well.

A new federal program would also make unemployment benefits available to those not traditionally covered, including gig workers and individuals without a long employment history. Computer systems would be upgraded to administer the benefits. States were criticized during the pandemic for having antiquated technology that couldn’t handle the influx of jobless claims.

The lawmakers envision their proposal as a makeover to the unemployment system that could kick in after the enhanced short-term benefits that Congress approved earlier this year expire. The current set of expanded jobless payments is scheduled to begin winding down in early September. -- Laura Davison

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