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Senator says GOP may have infrastructure counteroffer this week

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

Republican senators may unveil their counteroffer to President Biden’s infrastructure proposal by the end of this week, Senator Shelley Moore Capito said Tuesday, while the president continues to solicit bipartisan opinions on the massive package.

Republicans have concerns about Mr. Biden’s $2 trillion proposal, arguing that it contains too many provisions that are unrelated to traditional forms of infrastructure, such as funding for home care for the elderly and disabled and electric cars. Republicans are also balking at Mr. Biden’s proposed method of paying for the package — a corporate tax rate 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 that Republicans would present their counter-proposal within “several days” and “hopefully by the end of the week.” She said that “lines of communications are open” between Republican senators, and that she and a group of ten other Republicans would likely “settle on a conceptual sort of idea” for their proposal.

The Republican plan will be focused on toplines, Capito said, but would not necessarily be detailed. However, it will include specific projects and methods of paying for them.

Capito responded to Mr. Biden’s comments that he would want Congress to settle on a proposal by mid-May, calling it “a good signal that he’s — he’s ready to start to engage.”

“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.

Capito said last week that the “sweet spot” for an infrastructure proposal would be between $600 and $800 billion and would focus on “roads, bridges, ports, airports including broadband into that, [and] water infrastructure.” However, she later told reporters that the $600 to $800 billion number was “just a ballpark figure.” Both numbers are less than half the cost of the president’s proposal.

Senator Roger 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.

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,” Biden said at the meeting. “It’s a big package, but there are a lot of needs.”

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was not at the meeting on Monday, told reporters that she believed Mr. Biden was still engaged in outreach with Republicans.

“I’d like to think that when he invites leaders over, for that kind of conversation, that he is leaving the door open for their input,” she said.

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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