With Campaign Wins in Georgia, Democrats Control the Senate. What Does That Mean for Biden’s “Build Back Better” Plan?

By Cathalijne Adams
Jan 07 2021 |
There’s strong bipartisan support for infrastructure investment, but efforts to move the process forward have stalled. Will the incoming administration be able to get the job done? Getty Images

With ambitious goals for infrastructure and clean energy, Democratic control of Congress offers more hope that significant investment can happen under the incoming Biden presidency.

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but Georgia Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won seats in the Senate on Tuesday.

While the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is a nonpartisan organization, so we don’t weigh in on the merits of any specific political candidate. But we do think it is worth noting that those victories mean President-elect Joe Biden’s plans to deliver economic recovery through his Build Back Better plan appear likelier to come to actualization.

The twofold victories have secured Democrats’ control of the Senate, though with narrow margins, requiring President-elect Joe Biden to recruit support from conservative members of its own party ,like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). Biden may also need backing of some Republican members to create the “at least 5 million new jobs in manufacturing and innovation” that the Build Back Better plan projects.

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now. On COVID-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more,” Biden said. “They want us to move, but move together.”

Fortunately, polling has revealed time and time again that infrastructure is a remarkably unifying issue that could offer Republicans and Democrats an opportunity to put differences aside and massively bolster America’s ailing economy.  

With a 50-50 split of control in the Senate, Manchin, one of the Senate’s other conservative Democrats, could play an integral role as a swing voter. Though the senator’s commitment to centrist politics will likely stymie some of Biden’s more progressive initiatives, Manchin has been a strong supporter for infrastructure and clean energy, critical components of President-elect Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan.

“Jobs, everybody agrees on… a pothole doesn’t have a Democratic or Republican name on it,” Manchin said during a recent webinar hosted by the BlueGreen Alliance, Environmental Defense Fund and Third Way.

Reflecting Biden’s own focus on strengthening America’s clean energy industry to boost U.S. employment, Manchin has also backed clean energy technology investment such as the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), which he supported this fall.

“[Clean energy technologies] have the potential to create U.S. jobs for workers and communities that need a long-term lifeline. By identifying the policies and industries that will rebuild our manufacturing sector and reclaim our economic future, I believe we can help our workers and their families while reestablishing U.S. leadership in existing and new entirely new energy markets,” Manchin said during discussion of the AEIA bill.

Though infrastructure investment presents an awesome opportunity to rebuild America’s economy, with possible gains of as much as 12.9 million jobs by 2024, there remains no lack of acrimony between the two parties. Funding for Biden’s Build Back Better plan is likely to become a sticking point.

As Vox notes:

“Infrastructure could be one of the few opportunities for bipartisanship; a number of moderate Republicans are willing to work on such a bill, but other Republicans have already begun to raise concerns about the national deficit and additional spending after themselves passing a massive tax cut in 2017 that ballooned the deficit. Still, Biden, who served as a senator for decades before becoming Obama’s vice president, has a long working relationship with McConnell in the Senate. This could prove to be an asset going into his presidency.”

Indeed, Biden’s transition team has already reportedly begun work to muster this bipartisan support during the first year of his term.

The American economy has a long road back to recovery ahead of it. Members of Congress would be wise listen to American voters and support the significant investment in infrastructure and clean energy that promises to create millions upon millions of valuable family-supporting jobs for American workers.