GOP Counters Biden With $568 Billion Infrastructure Plan

Senior Senate Republicans offered a $568 billion counter to President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion jobs package Thursday, one that’s focused on more traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges and doesn’t have the corporate tax hikes that Democrats are seeking.

The five-year plan more than doubles the Biden proposal for roads and bridges -- to $299 billion -- and spends the rest on items including transit, rail, airports, water projects and broadband. It offers few specifics on how to pay for the spending beyond references to taxing electric cars and repurposing unspent funds. It specifically opposes rolling back any of the 2017 GOP tax cuts or adding to the national debt.

“This is a robust package” that’s the biggest ever supported by the GOP, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a briefing to unveil the plan Thursday. “This would be fully paid for, and that’s critical.”

She called it “a good starting point” for talks with the White House and added that, “In negotiations, things are always give and take.”

White House

The GOP has forwarded the plan to the White House, said Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the ranking Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and another member of the group.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also called the offer a “starting point” for discussions, and said the White House welcomes any good-faith offer.

GOP senators backing the plan include John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican; and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Banking Committee.

How They Compare

Roads, bridges$299 bln$115 bln
Broadband$65 bln$100 bln
Airports$44 bln$25 bln
Public transit$61 bln$85 bln
Rail$20 bln$80 bln
Water projects$49 bln$111 bln
Housing, elderly care$0$400 bln
Electric vehicles$0$174 bln

Spending figures for the GOP plan are over five years, whereas the Biden proposal is over eight years. Major components of the White House plan, including $400 billion for housing and care for the elderly, $300 billion for manufacturing and $180 billion for research and development are also out of the Republican framework. GOP members separately have backed a plan for spending to strengthen U.S. manufacturing to take on China.

The GOP total is somewhat short of what Capito had floated last week, which was total spending of $600 billion to $800 billion.

Capito said that Republicans don’t favor a hike in the gasoline tax, but that discussions have been held on a vehicle-miles tax that would cover electric vehicles’ use of roads. She also suggested that cities, states and counties could repurpose some of their money from previously approved pandemic-relief spending bills toward infrastructure. Toomey called on states that are “flush with cash” to contribute.

They specifically oppose raising the corporate tax rate, which Biden has proposed to help pay for his plan.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden blasted the proposal, complaining that Republicans would let corporations get all the fruits from the investment in infrastructure without paying anything for it.

“That’s not a serious proposal,” the Oregon Democrat said, adding that it was “light years” away from what could win bipartisan agreement.

Wyden also said the package is “far too small,” invests nothing in clean energy, and would ultimately force the middle class to pay the tab.

Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, called the package “insulting” and “unacceptable,” complaining about the absence of major elements in the Biden plan, including money for elder care and housing.

‘Working People’

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said he hasn’t looked at the details, but said any plan “has to be green and cannot be paid for on the backs of working people.”

Earlier this year, Democrats brushed off a $600 billion proposal for a pandemic-relief package from 10 Senate Republicans as insufficient. Democrats charged ahead on their own to enact Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 package.

This time, Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware has been urging senators in both parties to come together on an initial infrastructure package of up to $1 trillion, with a larger, follow-on, Democrat-only package filled with other Biden priorities Republicans don’t support.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a key Democratic moderate, has also been insisting that both parties make a real effort to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package.

GOP Senator John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, urged Democrats and Biden Thursday to work with Republicans on a pared-down package and warned against another massive, partisan plan that uses the so-called budget reconciliation process to forgo the need for GOP votes.

Republicans have complained Biden’s plan spends more on electric cars than roads, raises taxes and includes hundreds of billions of dollars for items not normally seen as traditional infrastructure, like money for elder care.

Among the items that have broad, bipartisan support are money for roads, airports, water and sewer projects and extending broadband into rural areas. But how to pay for an infrastructure plan has been a key sticking point for years, and the plan released Thursday didn’t offer a clear bipartisan way to do so.

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