Iowa Republicans deride Biden’s pitches for broad social spending

In a speech to a pared-down joint session of Congress, Biden outlined a policy vision for his presidency, including large infrastructure and social welfare programs. Sen. Joni Ernst and other Iowa Republicans described the plans as extreme.


Doug Mills/Pool via USA TODAY NETWORK

Apr 28, 2021; Washington, DC, USA; U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) look on in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC

Sarah Watson and Caleb McCullough

President Joe Biden pitched a potential $4 trillion in social programs and infrastructure to Congress on Wednesday, arguing for ambitious spending to kick-start the U.S. economy as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

The speech followed the unveiling of the “American Families Plan” earlier on Wednesday, Biden’s $1.8 trillion proposal to expand lower and higher education, child care, and social welfare programs.

Iowa’s junior Republican senator, Joni Ernst, gave a ‘prebuttal’ ahead of Biden’s address where she criticized the high price tag on the proposals and said Biden was operating on an “extreme agenda.”

She said Biden hadn’t kept a promise of bipartisan unity during his administration. Biden hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with Republicans on major legislation, including a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that had no Republican votes.

Ernst painted Biden’s softer immigration policies as the cause of a surge of migrants at the southern border with Mexico, though immigration researchers say motivations for immigration are more complicated — migrants are fleeing climate change, violence, and corruption according to the New York Times.

“Since then, the president and his Democratic allies in Congress have used a partisan process to fast track trillions of dollars of new spending for their pricey pet projects,” Ernst said. “Despite the president’s calls for us to listen to one another, the Democrats are planning to yet again fast track another $2.2 trillion package being sold as an infrastructure bill.”

Biden urged a small group of lawmakers on Wednesday to support the American Families Plan and a $2.2 trillion infrastructure overhaul, some of the most expensive programs in American history. He said the plans will bring the U.S. into the lead compared to other global economic powerhouses, including China.

“The rest of the world isn’t waiting for us… Doing nothing is not an option,” he said. “We can’t be so busy competing with each other that we forget the competition is with the rest of the world to win the 21st Century. To win that competition for the future, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families – in our children.”

The American Families Plan would provide free community college, provide billions in tax credits to subsidize child care, and offer guaranteed paid medical and family leave, among other provisions.

Biden’s infrastructure bill focuses on rebuilding roadways and piping, increasing spending on home care and health services, and turning the U.S. energy grids toward renewable sources. Biden pitched the plan as a way to bring the U.S. into competition with the rest of the world.

“Throughout our history, if you think about it, public investments and infrastructure has literally transformed America,” he said. “Our attitudes as well as our opportunities.”

Ernst characterized Biden’s infrastructure bill as a trojan horse for extraneous measures.

Ernst used a poster that included a list of items on “Liberal Fantasy Island”, that she claimed were included in the bill — despite the former Delaware senator saying in the past that he did not support most of those actions — including “defunding the police,” “abolishing ICE,” and the Green New Deal.

Biden has not endorsed the Green New Deal, though his website said it provided a “crucial framework.”

Biden has also said he’s opposed to defunding or reallocating funds away from the police.

Ernst’s poster quickly became a trending topic on Twitter after a meme-creator replaced some of the items with phrases such as “ABOLISH LASAGNA” and “SEX BLIMPS.”

In a press call earlier on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the American Families Plan was an example of too much spending, suggesting that taxes would need to be increased to pay for it, but he said some of the package may be warranted.

“Oftentimes I have voted to increase social spending, so I can’t say that everything he’s got in that package might not have some legitimacy, but the number just scares the heck out of me,” Grassley said.

Other Representatives from Iowa also reacted to Biden’s address:

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