Senate Democrats have already dismissed the narrowly focused infrastructure counter-proposal offered by Senate Republicans today, increasing the probability that Senate leaders will attempt to move President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs package through budget reconciliation.
The Republican plan, offered by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and others, proposes roughly $568 billion in new spending for roads, highways and bridges, with additional money set aside for upgrading water pipes, improving airports and seaports and improving broadband connectivity to parts of the country that lack it. The plan’s supporters suggested that the spending could be financed through user fees, including new charges on owners of electric vehicles.
“This is the largest infrastructure investment Republicans have come forward with,” Capito said at a press conference today. “Our focus today is to say what our concepts are as Republicans [about] what infrastructure means, what our principles are in terms of pay-fors and to say to President Biden and his team and our Democratic colleagues: ‘We’re ready to sit down and get to work on this.’”
The GOP plan is vastly smaller than the one championed by Biden and congressional Democrats and includes no new tax increases on corporations, which the White House has proposed as a pay-for. In an interview with POLITICO yesterday, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo called the GOP proposal “a starting point for further negotiation.”
“So at that point, you take that and look to see where we might expand it and continue to find common ground,” Raimondo said. “I think that’s where we want to drive this over the next few weeks. In the end, the president feels very strongly the whole package needs to get through Congress. And if it has to be on partisan lines, then I suppose that’s the way it’ll have to be.”
Several Democratic senators rejected the GOP plan before it was unveiled. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called the plan “totally anemic,” and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said, “A far cry from $2.5 trillion.”
Another possibility was suggested this week by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), which was to separate Biden’s infrastructure package into two bills: one that can pass with bipartisan support and the second with the other provisions of Biden’s plan that could pass on a party-line vote.
“I think that if we come together in a bipartisan way to pass that $800 billion hard infrastructure bill that you were talking about, that I’ve been urging, then we show our people that we can solve their problems,” Coons said on Fox News last weekend.