Last week, President-elect Joe Biden introduced his first major legislative effort on the economy: a $1.9 trillion economic recovery bill.
“We have to act and we have to act now,” Biden said last week in announcing details of his plan.
At the same time, members of his circle of advisors are also keenly focused on taking full advantage of his first 100 days in office with hopes that a second economic bill will follow “shortly thereafter” to tackle two interrelated issues: climate and infrastructure. Biden himself said the stimulus bill is the first in a “two-step plan to build a bridge to the other side of the crisis we face to a better, stronger, more secure America.”
“I think he's likely to get most of it,” John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress and a former top adviser to Presidents Obama and Clinton, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance, referring to the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. Biden will then likely focus on an infrastructure bill that Podesta predicts will “make those big investments.”
Brian Deese, Biden’s incoming director of the National Economic Council, also signaled aggressive moves ahead in a recent Fox New interview. “One of the things we've learned in crises is that acting decisively will put us on a path to have a stronger economic recovery coming out of this,” he said.
Podesta, who worked with Deese in the Obama White House and is advising from the outside now, predicts that Biden’s aides are “going to come back with another substantial package, really aimed at transforming the energy sector.” Podesta also predicted a wide range of actions from the Biden administration on climate issues – including rejoining the Paris Climate agreement and changing leasing polices for public lands. (Podesta worked on climate policy in the Obama administration.)
Tom Steyer, the billionaire climate activist and former presidential candidate, added during a Yahoo Finance interview on Tuesday, that the Congressional piece is crucial. Biden "needs Congress to come along with him in terms of the big plan to rebuild America in a clean way," he said.
It remains to be seen what the proposal to Congress on these two issues – climate change and infrastructure – are undertaken as all together or as a separate pieces of legislation. Biden’s campaign plan combined the issues into a single plan promising “a national effort aimed at creating the jobs we need to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future.”
Podesta said infrastructure “may be a place where Republicans could find common ground to try to push forward with big investments.” There's Republican support for things like building out more renewable power, he noted.
In a Fox News interview on Jan. 17, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) suggested that what Republicans need to do is “work with Biden where we can, maybe on infrastructure,” before adding that they would ”fight like hell” against initiatives he claimed would undercut border security or institute a Green New Deal.
Throughout the campaign, Biden often put distance between his climate plans and the Green New Deal suggesting they would take the proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders and others under advisement but not replicate many of its ideas.
The Biden transition team has also promised to send an immigration bill to Congress on Wednesday, its first day in office. That bill will reportedly include an eight-year pathway to citizenship, an expansion of refugee admissions, as well as new technology-based enforcements plan on the border.
Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.