A group of Senate Republicans on Thursday laid out what they see as a “road map” to overhauling the nation’s crumbling infrastructure system, offering a much different vision than the one proposed by President Joe Biden.
The GOP “framework,” put forward by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, calls for spending $568 billion toward renewing America’s roads, bridges, ports and waterways ― so-called traditional infrastructure. It is far more narrow in size and scope than the $2 trillion package proposed by the Biden administration.
Capito called the GOP plan “the biggest and most robust proposal Republicans have ever offered” on infrastructure, and Wicker described it as a “very, very generous” offer that the White House ought to take seriously.
In reality, the two sides are very far apart on an infrastructure bill. Given GOP opposition to Democratic priorities like electric vehicles and elder care, as well as increasing corporate taxes to pay for new projects, it’s likely that negotiations will follow a similar path to talks over the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Democrats passed unilaterally earlier this year.
“I think that’s really, really light,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) told HuffPost when asked about the GOP offer on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a top advocate for bipartisan efforts on infrastructure, called the GOP plan simply “a starting point.” He added that he expects Republicans to negotiate in good faith and accept a larger package.
The five-year GOP plan includes $299 billion for roads and bridges ― more than double what’s called for in Biden’s American Jobs Plan. However, it would spend much less on other infrastructure categories such as rail, broadband and drinking water. Moreover, the GOP plan is silent on electric vehicles, a key priority for Democrats seeking to address climate change.
“We fully expect when we get to the negotiating phase that climate will be a part of the discussion,” Capito said Thursday.
The GOP plan offers very few specifics on how to pay for the spending ― a key sticking point in the talks. It calls for taxing electric cars and repurposing unspent COVID-19 relief funds ― both likely nonstarters with Democrats. And it opposes rolling back the 2017 GOP tax cuts or adding to the national debt.
Democrats still have an option to pass Biden’s infrastructure and jobs package with a simple majority vote under a special budget process called reconciliation. Doing so will require total party unity on what should be included in the bill, as well as a decision on how long to engage in talks with Republicans that could drag on for months. For now at least, Democratic senators and Biden administration officials are making attempts to find common ground.
“Any infrastructure bill we consider here in the Senate must include green infrastructure, create green jobs, and make significant progress towards the reduction of greenhouse gases,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday, drawing a line in the sand about the climate component of the bill.
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