Republicans are still working on their scaled-back counterproposal to President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, but Democrats say they’ve already heard enough to know the GOP offer is a non-starter.
The GOP plan, being spearheaded by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, is likely to total $550 billion to $880 billion, with the costs paid for with user fees and unspent Covid relief funds.
Capito told reporters Tuesday that she hoped to have a “conceptual” infrastructure proposal by the end of the week and that the Republican offer would present a contrast to Biden’s sweeping blueprint. Republicans have criticized the scope of Biden’s plan and the corporate tax increases the president has proposed. The GOP offer is expected to focus on roads, bridges, ports and airports, as well as water infrastructure, broadband access and updating the electric grid. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Republicans were “open to a more modest and targeted” package. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said he thought the GOP’s initial offer "might be somewhere south of $600 billion.”
That’s enough for Democrats to say the GOP plan will fall far short. “Six hundred billion dollars is not what the country needs — the country needs $2 trillion,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Politico. “It’s not nearly enough.”
Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine report that Senate Democrats are also dismissing the nascent GOP plan, suggesting that it’s too small to be useful as the basis for bipartisan talks:
“Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called the proposal ‘totally anemic’ and an ‘insult’ to Biden’s offer. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) summarized Democrats’ feelings by observing that ‘the Republican proposal does not meet the moment.’
“’A far cry from $2.5 trillion,” added Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). ‘Until the Republicans realize the needs are far, far greater from what they’re proposing, I don’t know that we’re going to get much further. I hope so … but we’re not going to wait forever.’”
The bottom line: The dynamics of the infrastructure talks may be reminiscent of those on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. In that case, Republicans’ initial offer, also less than a third the size of Biden’s proposal, was promptly rejected and Democrats moved quickly to pass the legislation on their own. But there may be more interest in reaching a bipartisan deal on at least part of the infrastructure plan, and less pressure to act quickly. There’s still a long, bumpy road ahead before lawmakers settle on an infrastructure plan.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are wasting no time lobbying to receive federal infrastructure money for their districts. Democrats are already highlighting specific projects to the Biden administration, from bridges in Minnesota to rail tunnels in New Jersey, and GOP lawmakers are getting in on the action, too. “Even Republicans who have been disinclined to support Biden’s economic agenda have pushed their pet projects at a moment when Democrats are vying to spend big,” The Washington Post’s Tony Room reports.