Biden Gets GOP Warning on Infrastructure: Expect to Pay for It

A key House Republican said he told Joe Biden in a meeting on Thursday that the president’s plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure will lose GOP support if it adds to the deficit or delves into issues beyond roads and bridges, such as expanding clean power sources.

Representative Sam Graves of Missouri, the senior Republican on the Transportation committee, said the coming legislation must also balance needs in rural areas with those in cities.

“Rural infrastructure needs cannot be left behind, and we cannot continue to allow a growing disparity between resources provided to urban and rural communities,” Graves said in a statement after the meeting.

“Republicans are eager to work on bipartisan solutions, but it will take a willingness to compromise and a good faith effort to consider Republican priorities,” he said.

The statement lays down an ominous marker for Biden, who is unlikely to achieve what he’s called his “Build Back Better” plan without at least some Republican support, especially in the Senate. The president met Thursday with a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers, including Graves and the chairman of the Transportation committee, Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat.

The price tag of Biden’s forthcoming infrastructure spending plan may surpass the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief legislation he’s waiting for Congress to pass.

“We’re going to talk about infrastructure and American competitiveness and what we’re going to do to make sure that we once again lead the world across the board on infrastructure,” Biden said at the White House as the meeting got underway. “It not only creates jobs but it makes us a helluva lot more competitive around the world.”

But Graves said the plan cannot become “a multi-trillion dollar catch-all bill” or incorporate clean-energy and climate legislation backed by liberals known as the Green New Deal.

“Republicans won’t support another Green New Deal disguising itself as a transportation bill,” he said.

DeFazio has warned that Democrats won’t be able to use a process called “budget reconciliation” to pass the infrastructure plan. The fast-track process, which will be used to pass the pandemic aid bill, requires only a simple majority of votes in the Senate instead of the 60 normally needed to end filibusters.

“There’s no possible way it can fit into reconciliation,” DeFazio said. “If we stick with it, we’re not going to get anything done.”

He said after the meeting that he and Biden had discussed options to pay for the legislation, but didn’t elaborate. Democrats have floated tax increases to offset the price of the measure, including on capital gains.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Bloomberg Television in a recent interview that raising the gas tax was off the table.

Biden’s push comes the same week the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure, including roads, bridges and sewers, a mediocre grade. The group’s overall grade rose to “C-” from a “D+” in 2017, the last time it issued its quadrennial report card on infrastructure.

Biden and Buttigieg met last month with two Democratic senators and two Republicans. He urged Congress to get to work and, speaking the day after a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, warned that the U.S. could fall behind as China pours billions of dollars into infrastructure projects.

Biden’s infrastructure plan will draw on the “Build Back Better” proposals he offered during his campaign, which included $2 trillion during his first term on infrastructure and clean energy. He will unveil the plan he wants Congress to consider during his first address to a joint session, which the White House has said will take place after Congress passes his stimulus bill.

In addition to traditional infrastructure programs, such as building roads and shoring up bridges, the administration also wants to spend on building electric vehicle charging stations, developing cleaner cars and creating zero-emission mass transit systems. The spending would also boost sustainable home building, clean energy innovation and conservation. Some of the ideas have faced skepticism from Republicans.

After meeting with Biden last month, Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and a climate change skeptic, said it was important not to attach a controversial “agenda” item to infrastructure to hold it hostage.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.