Republicans Crafting Narrow Infrastructure Proposal to Counter Biden’s $2.3 Billion Plan

April 14, 2021 Updated: April 14, 2021

Republicans plan to unveil an infrastructure package that excludes items like funding for elder care to counter President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion proposal, several GOP senators said Wednesday.

The large Democrat package would allocate $400 billion for the care of the elderly and disabled, among other provisions that would not be included in typical infrastructure bills. Republicans want to slash the total amount by narrowing the focus to building and improving roads, bridges, and other traditional infrastructure pieces.

“What I’d like to do is get back to what I consider the regular definition of infrastructure in terms of job creation. So that’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, including broadband into that, water infrastructure,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the top Republican on  the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Capito floated a package that would come in at the $600 to $800 billion range.

“We haven’t put all of that together yet,” she added.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters on Capitol Hill that he thinks an $800 billion package might be too high before repeating a desire to focus on roads, airports, and other traditional infrastructure elements.

The so-called gang of 20, a group of Republican and Democrat members of Congress, plans to discuss a slimmed-down package on Thursday.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), part of the gang, said lawmakers are in communication with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who heads the National Governors Association “to try and come up with something which is truly focused on infrastructure.”

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Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaks to reporters in Washington on April 13, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

“If you look at the $2.2 trillion bill or whatever it is now, only about 6 percent of it is devoted to roads and bridges,” he told reporters in Washington.

Some members of the gang met with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the White House on Monday on infrastructure. The meeting took place behind closed doors and did not result in any major breakthroughs.

A bill in the range floated by Capito, if it’s for roads and bridges, would receive support from Cassidy, who said to expect a definitive proposal in the future. According to Romney, the effort is in the early stages.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), another moderate Republican, said earlier this month that cutting the infrastructure bill down to about $615 billion would be an “easy win” for the Biden administration, easily attracting enough GOP support.

Biden’s current plan would be paid for by hiking the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, which has itself drawn pushback from Republicans who voted for the Trump era tax bill, which slashed the same rate from 35 percent to where it is now. Democrats need to draw at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate, unless they again turn to budget reconciliation, further undermining Biden’s promise to govern by unifying the country.

Potential payment options for the infrastructure bill include charging people for each mile they drive, senators said. Additional revenue could be created by taxing electric vehicles for road usage.

“I think we should start cobbling that together. It’s going to have to come from a lot of different sources,” Capito said on CNBC.

“My own view is that the pay for ought to come from people who are using it. So if it’s an airport, the people who are flying; if it’s a port, the people who are shipping into the port; if it’s a rail system, the people who are using the rails; if it’s highways, it ought to be gas if it’s a gasoline powered vehicle; if its a electric vehicle, some kind of mileage associated with that electric vehicle that would be similar to or the same as the gasoline tax,” Romney added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House on Tuesday that Biden does not support raising the gas tax, which would not raise all of the money the administration wants to spend, after he discussed the tax during the earlier meeting with a bipartisan group.

“Now, fundamentally, he does not believe that paying for this historic investment in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and creating millions of jobs should be on the backs of Americans,” she said. “So he doesn’t believe that anyway; he’s proposed his own means of paying for it. But he was using it as an example of how it wouldn’t even make a sizable dent in paying for the package.”

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