Senate Republicans warn Biden against using reconciliation for infrastructure

A group of Senate Republicans negotiating with the White House on an infrastructure package warned President Biden on Thursday not to rely on the budget reconciliation process to pass his own proposal without any GOP votes.  

In a memo addressed to Biden Thursday, Republican senators warned that beginning the budget reconciliation process, which would give Democrats a pathway to getting the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan through the upper chamber with a simple-majority vote, “would undermine the good work we have done, and can continue to do, in a bipartisan manner.”

The group, which includes GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Roger Wicker (Miss.), made the memo public shortly after unveiling a $928 billion infrastructure counteroffer that’s still well short of the $1.7 trillion spending proposal the White House released last week.

The Republican negotiators acknowledged Thursday a significant gap remains between the two sides and that time for reaching a deal is running out as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced this week that the Senate will move forward on an infrastructure package in July.

Biden had set a deadline of Memorial Day to see progress on infrastructure.

“We recognize that your most recent offer leaves us far apart and, coupled with your Memorial Day deadline leaves little time to close the gap,” the GOP senators wrote.

Some Senate Democrats are already calling for Biden to cut the talks short and move ahead with a budget reconciliation vehicle, which could pass with only Democratic votes.

Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) urged his fellow Democrats last week to “not waste time” trying to court “Republicans votes that have yet to and will never materialize” after the White House announced that there was a $1.5 trillion difference between Biden and Senate Republican negotiators.

The group of GOP negotiators on Thursday upped their offer to $928 billion, including $506 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, $98 billion for public transit systems, $46 billion for passenger and freight rail and $72 billion for water infrastructure, among other priorities.

The Republicans say a deal is still possible.

“We believe that we can reach a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure legislation that will move through regular order,” they wrote.

Republicans in their memo argued the latest offer is close to the target Biden laid out in a May 13 meeting with the group.

“When we recently met with you in the Oval Office we discussed the parameters of an infrastructure package,” they wrote. “Specifically you expressed a funding target of at least $1 trillion over an eight-year period and that baseline funding levels could be included in that target.”

They also noted: “As a group, we were explicit that policies unrelated to physical infrastructure do not fit in this package.”

“We can address these important issues separately without weakening our commitment to building America’s infrastructure,” they wrote.

The Republicans emphasized that they had “made clear” that they would not support revising the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to pay for infrastructure priorities by raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent or 28 percent. The signature Trump tax initiative cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent.

Instead, the GOP negotiators say new investments should be paid for by repurposing some of the $350 billion sent to state and local governments in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March, and unspent money from other COVID-19 relief bills.

“We can identify funding from these packages that is no longer needed as we emerge from the pandemic, or that is not slated to be spent for several years — if at all. As an example, billions of dollars will not be spent by those states that decided to encourage workers to return to work by not paying out unemployment insurance,” they wrote. 

Tags Biden infrastructure budget reconciliation Charles Schumer Ed Markey Infrastructure spending Joe Biden John Barrasso Mike Crapo Reconciliation reconciliation process Roger Wicker Roy Blunt Shelley Moore Capito

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