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GOP senators to present counteroffer to Biden’s infrastructure plan

▶ Watch Video: Biden says he’s “prepared to compromise” on infrastructure plan

Washington — Republican senators will unveil their counteroffer to President Biden’s infrastructure proposal on Thursday, which is expected to be significantly smaller than the president’s $2 trillion plan and focus on transportation and broadband.

Senators Shelley Moore Capito, Roger Wicker, Pat Toomey and John Barrasso will hold a press conference to present their framework. Republicans have concerns about Mr. Biden’s proposal, arguing that it contains too many provisions that are unrelated to traditional forms of infrastructure, such as funding for electric cars and home care for the elderly and disabled. Republicans are also balking at Mr. Biden’s proposed method of paying for the package — a corporate tax rate increase from 21% to 28%, as well as a new global minimum tax for multinational corporations.

Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday that the Republican plan will be focused on toplines but would not necessarily be detailed. However, it will include specific projects and methods of paying for them, such as user fees for transportation and with unspent coronavirus relief funds.

“We’ll be releasing a robust plan,” Capito told reporters on Wednesday. “We want it to be paid for. We’re not interested in raising taxes. We think that people that use our infrastructure are a lot of the solution. There’s a lot of private money out there.”

The proposal is expected to cost between $600 and $800 billion, which Capito said last week would be the “sweet spot” for any Republican plan focusing on “roads, bridges, ports, airports including broadband into that, [and] water infrastructure.” She later told reporters that the $600 to $800 billion number was “just a ballpark figure.”

Wicker told reporters on Tuesday that he expected the counteroffer to be in the $600 billion range, although he said it could be less. “If we want bipartisanship, it’s on us to make a good faith effort,” Wicker said.

Republican Senator Kevin Cramer told reporters Wednesday that the counteroffer would be significant less than $2 trillion, but would not be “skinny.”

“It’s not skinny. It’s certainly not $2 trillion. But it’s not skinny, it’s really quite robust,” Cramer said.

Capito told reporters on Tuesday that she was engaged in some bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure measures.

“I’m already engaged with Senator Carper on the water bill and also on the highway bill so you know these engagements are not just — they’ve been ongoing, in some areas,” Capito said, referring to a bipartisan water infrastructure bill with Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Tom Carper. Carper has also previously said that he would like to approve a new highway funding measure by Memorial Day. The committee approved a bill to invest nearly $300 billion in highways in 2019, but it never went further on the Senate floor.

“So hopefully we can use our committee process to work through that and do it the old fashioned way. Give and take,” Capito said. She added that she believed there would be bipartisan support for including broadband expansion in the final bill.

Mr. Biden has been meeting with bipartisan groups of lawmakers in recent days. On Monday, he met with several senators and representatives who had previously served as governors and mayors, to get their opinions on how an infrastructure bill could be implemented at a state and local level.

“I am prepared to compromise,” Mr. Biden said at the meeting. “It’s a big package, but there are a lot of needs.”

Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a close ally of the president, said last week that he would be open to passing a package that cost $800 billion to $1 trillion. He later told reporters that Capito’s proposal to do one bipartisan bill, and then a second infrastructure package containing Democratic priorities, was a “strong approach.”

“Out of the whole, more than $2 trillion worth of things proposed in the jobs and infrastructure plan, that means we would take, let’s say $800 billion of it out, move that is a bipartisan bill, partly paid for with fees. And then several weeks later passed by reconciliation, a Democrat-only bill that would do the rest of that agenda,” Coons said.

Budget reconciliation allows for bills to pass with a simple majority, instead of the 60-vote threshold typically needed to advance legislation, meaning that the second infrastructure package could pass without any Republican votes. Congress used the complicated and arduous reconciliation process to pass Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan last month.

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