The so-called Problem Solvers Caucus is a group of 58 members of Congress-- 29 conservative Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and 29 garden variety Republicans. As we've explained in the past it's part of the web of Mark Penn/Nancy Jacobson operations set up to undermine progressive policy and maintain the financial status quo. The Problem Solvers have never solved any problems except the problems of how such conservative Democrats can raise money for the reelection campaigns. They do that by taking payoffs from right-wing billionaires and multimillionaires interested in... maintaining the status quo, of course. Until a few weeks ago, the chairs of the silly caucus were right-wing New Jersey Democrap Josh Gottheimer and New York Republican Tom Reed, who was kicked out of the chair for molesting women and replaced as co-chair by Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
Today they issued their own shiny, corporate-looking infrastructure plan, no doubt prepared for them by corporate lobbyists, that is more in line with Republican objectives than the plan Biden released. The worst aspect is their all-too-predictable decision to finance the improvements to infrastructure (narrow GOP definition) through regressive taxes that fall most drastically on the working and middle class while leaving corporations and the super-rich alone.
Blue America is eager to run ads on some of the worst of the Problem Solvers-- like Jared Golden (Blue Dog-ME), Don Bacon (R-NE), Abigail Spanberger (Blue Dog-VA), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA), Tony Gonzalez (R-TX), Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA), David Joyce (R-OH), Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ), John Katko (R-NY), Conor Lamb (PA), Young Kim (R-CA), Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL), Bryan Steil (R-WI), Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ) Van Taylor (R-TX) and Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR). Imagine mobile billboards driving up and down the 101, the 5 and Rt 22 with signs that say "Kurt Schrader is protecting his corporate campaign donors by raising the taxes on gasoline."
Andrew Duehren's Wall Street Journal headline this morning was Bipartisan Group Backs Gas-Tax Increase as Option to Fund Infrastructure and his first sentence said that they "endorsed raising the gasoline tax as a possible way to pay for infrastructure spending," which is exactly what the GOP wants, although they call it euphemisms like "user fees." It's the line corporations are insisting on to keep their own taxes low. Duehren reported that the Problem Solvers called for "several possible fee increases, including a vehicle-miles traveled tax that would collect revenue from electric vehicles. Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax, which stands at 18.4 cents a gallon, since 1993."
Figuring out how to pay for infrastructure investments is at the center of the early efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement. The White House has repeatedly said it is opposed to raising user fees like the gas tax to pay for infrastructure, arguing that it would disproportionately affect lower-income Americans.
The White House has proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and increasing taxes on U.S. companies’ foreign earnings. That plan has drawn opposition from Republicans and some Democrats, who instead favor relying on a more modest increase in the corporate tax rate, user fees or debt to finance the package.
The Senate Republicans in their outline out Thursday said they wouldn’t agree to any increase in corporate taxes, instead calling for using existing federal dollars and other user fees to pay for the plan. But they said they wouldn’t support raising the gas tax.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate have also held a series of recent meetings to explore a possible compromise. With narrow control of the House and Senate, Democrats have the power to pass an infrastructure package without Republican support.
But a political desire to find a bipartisan agreement and the procedural limitations of passing legislation along party lines have pushed Democrats to try to first find a compromise with the GOP. Earlier this year, Democrats moved forward with a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package after dismissing a roughly $618 billion GOP counteroffer as too small.
“The time is now for Congress and the administration to reach across the aisle, unite and boost investments in our surface transportation network that will move our transportation systems into the 21st century, said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), another leader of the Problem Solvers Caucus.
Shervin Aazami is running in a commuter-congested southern California district in the San Fernando Valley. "It is absurd," he told me this afternoon, "that we’re discussing regressive taxation to pay for an absolutely essential infrastructure package when the wealthiest Americans have effectively a lower tax burden than the entire middle class. The 400 richest Americans pay less in federal, state, and local taxes than the bottom 24% of households. It’s ludicrous. We’re living in a plutocracy. And for the Biden Administration to propose raising the corporate tax rate to a level that is still significantly below the level it was prior to the Trump tax cuts-- and to STILL face opposition from within the party-- is inexcusable."