WASHINGTON — Gov. J.B. Pritzker is among eight mayors and governors meeting with President Joe Biden on Wednesday as part of a White House drive to rally support for a bipartisan infrastructure plan with its success potentially linked to a second bill packed with Democratic policy initiatives no Republicans will support.
Pritzker press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said Biden invited Pritzker to the White House “to discuss the critical need for nationwide infrastructure investments, along with the success of Illinois’ own historic bipartisan capital plan.
“The governor also anticipates discussing other major issues such as the need for a national approach to addressing the pandemic’s impact on unemployment funds and combatting gun violence. The governor will also meet with White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Pritzker is a strong supporter of Biden’s infrastructure proposals — things like airports, broadband, roads and bridges — and the second bill, with items dealing with the climate, education and child care.
Biden and Pritzker met when the president was in Crystal Lake on July 7 where he talked about his “Build Back Better” agenda and infrastructure plans at McHenry County College.
In Crystal Lake, Biden outlined what the infrastructure bill would mean to Illinois. “You’ve got, like many states — all states — you’ve got 230 — 2,374 bridges and over 6,200 miles of highway that are in disrepair. As a result, every driver in this state pays a hidden tax of about $600 per year in wasted time and wasted fuel because of the nature of the roads and bridges — and, by the way, you’re better than a lot of states — not to mention the challenge of getting to work or getting to the day care center on time to avoid that late fee when you pick up your child.
“Your governor has an ambitious infrastructure plan, and under a bipartisan infrastructure agreement, we’re going to make the biggest investment in roads and bridges since the construction of the Interstate Highway System, literally creating millions of good-paying jobs,” Biden said.
Besides Pritzker, a White House spokesman said the meeting will also include Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, a Republican, and Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat, plus three Democratic mayors and two GOP mayors.
The two pieces of legislation are both massive and have political landmines to circumvent if they are to be passed and signed into law. The Democrats control the House by about four votes and can’t depend on GOP help even for the more popular infrastructure bill, which would bring federal dollars to every state in the nation.
The Senate is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans and Democrats control it because Vice President Kamala Harris has the tie-breaking vote. The infrastructure bill will need 60 votes to pass and has some GOP support. The Democrats-only bill will be moved in the Senate using a parliamentary loophole — called “reconciliation” that would let it pass with 51 votes.
On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Budget chair Bernie Sanders announced a massive $3.5 trillion package with Biden’s top priorities on climate, Medicare, education, child care and other social programs. The political challenge will be for Biden, Schumer and Sanders to get the moderate, liberal and progressive Democrats to stick together. Schumer said Biden will meet with Senate Democrats on Wednesday before the session with governors and mayors.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the number two Democrat in the Senate, said Tuesday on CNN that the sequencing of the votes on the two bills has not yet been decided.