Countering Biden, GOP pitches $568B for infrastructure
WASHINGTON — A group of Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a public works proposal with a much smaller price tag and a narrower definition of infrastructure than what President Joe Biden has proposed, highlighting the stark differences between the two sides that will be difficult to bridge in the coming months.
The price of the Republicans’ two-page outline came in at $568 billion over five years, compared to the $2.3 trillion that Biden has called for spending over eight years. The lawmakers framed their counter proposal as a “very, very generous offer.”
“This is the largest infrastructure investment that Republicans have come forward with,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., told reporters. “This is a robust package.”
Yet the unveiling of the GOP proposal also made clear the parties are leagues apart on the size and scope of what’s needed. Biden is spending time listening to Republicans and voicing a willingness to consider their ideas, but Democrats are intent on passing a major infrastructure boost this year with or without GOP support. They have made clear they are willing to use the budget reconciliation process to bypass Republicans altogether, just as they did on COVID relief earlier this year.
Whether to raise taxes is perhaps the biggest dividing line. To help pay for their plan, the Republicans would instead rely on user fees, including for electric vehicles, and on redirecting unspent federal dollars. The outline does not offer specifics, such as which federal programs would lose unspent dollars to infrastructure. Biden has proposed raising the corporate income tax from 21% to 28% to help pay for his plan, a move the Republican senators rejected.
The GOP’s slimmer infrastructure plan received a positive reception from the White House, with press secretary Jen Psaki characterizing it as a legitimate starting point for negotiations. She said Biden’s aides looked forward to reviewing the details and that Biden would invite members to the White House to discuss it further after he addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
“We certainly welcome any good faith effort and see this as that,” Psaki said.
Republican lawmakers have been quick to criticize the infrastructure proposal from Biden. They say just a fraction of the spending would go to traditional infrastructure. Biden’s plan devotes $400 billion to expand Medicaid support for caregivers, and substantial portions would fund electric vehicle charging stations and address the racial injustice of highways that were built in ways that harmed Black neighborhoods.
The Republican plan would dedicate $299 billion to roads and bridges, $65 billion to broadband internet and $61 billion to transit. Another big-ticket item: $44 billion for airports. Absent from the plan are Biden priorities like electric vehicle charging stations and caregiver support, as well as billions of dollars to renovate schools and public housing.
The senators delivered their blueprint to the White House about 30 minutes prior to holding a press conference on it.