By Matt Egan, CNN Business
Former President Donald Trump has blasted the bipartisan infrastructure legislation recently passed by Congress as a “Non-Infrastructure” bill.
Trump, long an advocate for infrastructure spending, put out a statement last weekend claiming that just 11% of the $1.2 trillion package is going toward “real” infrastructure. The former president, who repeatedly tried and failed to get an infrastructure bill passed when he was in the White House, argued Republican lawmakers should be “ashamed of themselves.”
Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the US Chamber of Commerce, told CNN that Trump is “wrong.”
“There is a lot of misinformation going around about this bill, including that only a small amount goes to infrastructure,” Bradley said in an interview.
The Chamber of Commerce executive pointed to hundreds of billions of dollars devoted to roads, transit, airports, and shipping ports. And the legislation also calls for major investments in broadband and the US power grid.
“It’s hard to say the internet and electricity don’t count as infrastructure,” Bradley said.
The business community loudly backed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which President Joe Biden plans to sign into law Monday.
“We’re ecstatic we are going to finally make a long overdue investment in our nation’s infrastructure” Bradley said.
The Chamber does remain committed to blocking the sweeping economic and climate package the White House hopes to get through Congress in the coming weeks on a partisan basis through reconciliation.
“We do still have a very high level of concern about the reconciliation package,” Bradley said.
Bradley is skeptical about the shrinking $1.9 trillion price tag on the proposal, down from $3.5 trillion previously, because he said Democrats will likely try to extend key policies such as the child tax credit rather than letting them sunset.
“This is kind of a shell game,” he said.
Bradley also argued that the reconciliation package could further inflame America’s worsening inflation problem. US consumer prices surged in October at the fastest 12-month rate since late 1990.
By contrast, Moody’s Analytics put out a report last week on the impact of both the infrastructure and reconciliation packages, and found that “concerns that the plan will ignite undesirably high inflation and an overheating economy are overdone.”
Moody’s pointed to the long-term nature of the spending as well as efforts in the legislation to ease inflation, including lowering drug costs and easing the financial burden of childcare, education and housing.
Bradley conceded some parts of the reconciliation package “can be deflationary” but said “other aspects can be pretty inflationary.”
Chamber will keep fighting Biden’s signature bill
Not surprisingly, the Chamber’s biggest concern is over changes to the tax code that the group argues would put US companies at a competitive disadvantage on the world stage.
Bradley signaled the Chamber will continue its ad blitz against the legislation.
“I suspect we will continue advertising,” he told CNN.
The Chamber’s staunch opposition to the tax proposal has riled the Biden administration. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told CNN in September the Chamber’s ad blitz is “not helpful” and urged the group to work together with the White House. “Get in here and let’s do the hard work of compromise,” she said.
Patagonia CEO calls out Chamber, business leaders
Citing the reconciliation package’s aggressive climate investments, Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert slammed the Chamber in a recent LinkedIn post for “working to stall and weaken this historic legislation” and spending millions to pressure moderate lawmakers to “vote against the planet.”
The Patagonia boss called out business leaders for arguing they support climate action but then supporting trade associations like the Chamber that oppose this legislation.
“It’s no longer ok for them to hide behind groups that do their dirty work,” Gellert wrote.
Bradley pushed back against the comments from the Patagonia CEO.
“It’s ill-founded,” he said in the interview. “It’s part of a broader message that if you support climate action, and the Chamber very much supports climate action, you therefore have to support the reconciliation bill. That might be the case if the reconciliation bill were simply a climate bill.”
Bradley also suggested the Chamber could even throw its weight behind the legislation’s climate provisions in the reconciliation package, if they were stripped out and put in a standalone bill.
“A standalone climate bill that largely reflects what’s in the current reconciliation package…We would have some suggestions and tweaks, but I think we could find agreement,” he said.
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