McConnell pans Biden’s infrastructure plan as a ‘major missed opportunity’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday panned President Biden’s infrastructure package, calling it a “major missed opportunity” amid growing criticism from members of his caucus.

“Our nation could use a serious, targeted infrastructure plan. There would be bipartisan support for a smart proposal. Unfortunately, the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration,” McConnell said in a statement.

His comments come after Biden formally unveiled the plan in Pittsburgh, seeking to modernize infrastructure and address climate change with a warning that “we have to move now.” 

“The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future. I’m going to bring Republicans into the Oval Office, listen to them, what they have to say, and be open to other ideas,” Biden said. “We’ll have a good faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to get this done. But we have to get this done.”

But McConnell criticized the bill for reaching far beyond just spending money on roads and bridges and accused Biden of siding with a “far-left dogma” over American families.

“This proposal appears to use ‘infrastructure’ as a Trojan horse for the largest set of tax hikes in a generation. … Democrats keep trying to use important issues as smokescreens for unrelated agendas,” he said.

The administration is proposing to help pay for the package by increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, a level set by the 2017 GOP tax plan. Several GOP senators, including members of McConnell’s leadership team, have panned talk of undoing the 2017 tax bill, warning that it will cost potential Republican votes.

McConnell’s statement comes after he disclosed earlier Wednesday that Biden had called him this week to talk about the plan.

He indicated that it was “not likely” that he would support the bill, even if it had funding for Kentucky projects, if it raised taxes or included deficit spending.

Infrastructure has long been a policy idea that garners bipartisan support, but there are big divisions about how to pay for a bill that make it increasingly likely Democrats will use reconciliation to avoid the 60-vote filibuster in the Senate.

Republicans also made it clear on Wednesday that while they are interested in an infrastructure package, they think it needs to be smaller, even as progressives pressure Biden to expand the scope of his proposal.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the lead Republican on one of the Senate panels working on an infrastructure bill, said that there are ongoing negotiations but called Biden’s bill a “clear attempt to transform the economy by advancing progressive priorities.”

“Regardless of the president’s partisan proposal, I stand ready to be a partner in advancing infrastructure legislation in a bipartisan way — just as we have in the past. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again,” she said.

If Democrats are going to avoid using reconciliation, they would need the support of 10 GOP senators. But no GOP senator has signaled as of Wednesday evening that they would be supportive of the sort of broad package that Biden is proposing.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who like Capito is part of a bipartisan Senate gang that helped craft last year’s coronavirus deal, signaled skepticism earlier Wednesday, saying that the plan includes “broad policy priorities that are a far cry away from what we’ve ever defined as infrastructure.”

Tags Biden infrastructure Infrastructure Infrastructure spending Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito

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