Joe Biden (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

US president Joe Biden will on Wednesday (31) unveil a $2 trillion infrastructure plan aimed at modernizing the United States’ crumbling transport network, creating millions of jobs and enabling the country to “out-compete” China.

The first phase of Biden’s “Build Back Better” program, which he will unveil in a speech in Pittsburgh, will detail massive investment spread over eight years.

It is designed to inject $620 billion into transport, including upgrading 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of roads and highways, repairing thousands of bridges and doubling funding for public transit.

The president, whom Donald Trump tried to caricature as “Sleepy Joe” and a man without strong ideas or motivation, intends to make infrastructure investment one of his flagship policies.

“He views his role as laying out… a broad vision, a bold vision for how we can invest in America, American workers, our communities,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The cost would be partly paid for by raising corporate tax from 21 percent to 28 percent.

“The president is proposing to fundamentally reform the corporate tax code so that it… ensures that large corporations are paying their fair share,” a senior administration official said ahead of the speech.

The new spending offensive comes soon after the United States passed a nearly $2 trillion Covid-19 economic stimulus plan.

And Biden’s speech is set to open a bitter battle in Congress, where the Democrats hold only a narrow majority and will face strong opposition from the Republicans.

The first criticisms came before Biden even gave his speech, some of it from the progressive wing of his party.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the package “needs to be way bigger.”

At the other end of the spectrum Republican Senator John Barrasso dismissed the plan as “a Trojan horse for more liberal spending & higher taxes.”

The coming months will test the negotiating skills of the Democratic president, a veteran of Washington deal-making, and the chances of his infrastructure plan passing into law remain uncertain.


EV revolution

The plan also vows to “spark the electric vehicle revolution” by building a network of 500,000 EV chargers, replacing 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrifying 20 percent of the famous yellow school buses.

Described by the White House as a “once-in-a-century capital investment,” the plan aims to accelerate the move towards a greener economy and make infrastructure more resilient to climate change.

One goal would be to cap hundreds of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells and mines, creating employment for people affected by the transition to clean energy.

With much of the country’s creaking infrastructure dating back to the 1950s, the dream of new roads, bridges, railways and airports is shared by many Americans.

But building a political consensus to transform Biden’s plan into reality is no easy task.

Both his predecessors Barack Obama and Trump made heady promises over infrastructure investment, but struggled to make any progress.

The issue keeps coming back to the same question: how to pay for it?

Biden’s new transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, who ran against him in the Democratic primaries, will be on the front lines of the battle, trying to ensure that this time, the stars are all aligned.

“I think that there’s a tremendous opportunity now to have bipartisan support for a big, bold vision on infrastructure,” the 39-year-old politician said.

“Americans don’t need a lot of selling to know that we’ve got to do big things when it comes to our infrastructure.”

Joshua Bolten, president of Business Roundtable, which represents US companies, said he opposed corporate tax increases to pay for infrastructure.

“Policymakers should avoid creating new barriers to job creation and economic growth, particularly during the recovery,” Bolten said.