Senate Republicans pitch $928 billion infrastructure offer

Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a $928 billion infrastructure proposal that includes $506 billion for roads, bridges and major projects and $98 billion for public transit systems.

The latest offer is substantially more than the $568 billion infrastructure framework the group led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced in April, but it’s still far short of the $1.7 trillion counteroffer that White House officials came back with last week.

“Senate Republicans continue to negotiate in good faith,” Capito told reporters Thursday morning. “We’ve had a lot a good dialogue with the White House.

“We’re trying to get to that common goal of reaching a bipartisan infrastructure agreement that we talked about in the Oval Office with the president several weeks ago and I talked with him even previous to that,” she added.

The one-page summary released by Republicans doesn’t include any new detail on how Republicans would pay for the plan, a major sticking point with the White House, which wants to raise corporate tax rates from 21 percent to 28 percent, undoing a core part of former President Trump’s tax-cut bill from 2017.

The GOP proposal calls for $46 billion for passenger and freight rail, $21 billion for safety, $22 billion for ports and waterways, $56 billion for airports and $72 billion for water infrastructure.

Other components include $22 billion for Western water storage, $65 billion for broadband infrastructure and $20 billion for infrastructure financing.

Republicans have proposed adding some of these components to the $303 billion surface transportation reauthorization legislation that passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by a vote of 20-0 Wednesday.

Capito said Thursday morning the counteroffer largely reflects what Biden told the group at the White House meeting: It had to be close to $1 trillion to get his support.

“We believe this counteroffer delivers on what President Biden told us in the Oval Office that day, and that is to try to reach somewhere near $1 trillion over an eight-year period of time that would include our baseline spending,” she said. “We have achieved that goal with this counteroffer.”

But she said the GOP group also stayed within the boundaries of their original plan to limit the proposal to “core physical infrastructure” and kept out some of the “human infrastructure” priorities of Biden’s plan, such as a proposed $400 billion to subsidize the costs of long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities. 

The GOP counteroffer comes as Democrats are growing impatient with the slow pace of the talks and calling on Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to move a large infrastructure package under budget reconciliation, which would allow it to pass with only Democratic votes.

Democrats on Thursday criticized the latest GOP offer for not including any increase in the corporate tax rate to pay for it.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) complained that Democrats “keep getting the same answers, particularly on the pay-fors” from Republicans.

He pointed to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal that U.S. companies have authorized a record amount of stock buybacks for 2021.

“Apparently that’s the highest number in 22 years,” he said. “Those people are actually saying when they use the roads and the bridges and the ports they won’t pay a penny to be part of a shared solution?

“What I’ve said is for me the bottom line is a good dose of red, white and blue fairness,” he said. “I just gave you a stat that puts it in profile: $500 billion worth of stock buybacks indicates that this argument from the biggest corporations that they can’t afford to do this [is] hard to reconcile.”

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) criticized the proposal for repurposing money to state and local governments, including money to expand the child tax credit.

“They’re talking about using the child tax credit to pay for this. This is a significant tax cut for working people. Ninety percent of America’s kids — more than that — are going to benefit. It’s going to cut childhood poverty almost in half so I really don’t understand their desire to raise taxes on working people,” Bennet said.

Bennet said it would “be a useful thing to do” to raise corporate taxes, pointing out that “since 2001 we’ve cut taxes by $5 trillion” and “almost all the benefit is going to the wealthiest people in the country.”

Senate Republicans on Thursday reiterated their opposition to unwinding any of the corporate tax cuts included in the 2017 tax reform law, one of President Trump’s biggest domestic accomplishments.

“We made clear as a conference we will not revisit the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that provided the fastest economic growth in years, prior to the COVID-19 crisis,” Capito and other Senate Republican negotiators wrote in a memo to Biden dated May 27.

The GOP memo identified repurposing the $350 billion sent to state and local governments through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that passed in March.

“We propose to offset the roadmap with a combination of repurposed funding from previous COVID relief packages, user fees and infrastructure funding,” they wrote.  

Updated at 1:09 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Infrastructure Joe Biden Michael Bennet Nancy Pelosi Ron Wyden Shelley Moore Capito

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