Republicans Counter Biden With a $568 Billion Infrastructure Outline

Republicans Counter Biden With a $568 Billion Infrastructure Outline

Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters

Republican Senators outlined a $568 billion counteroffer to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan on Thursday, proposing to narrow the scope of any bipartisan package and spend roughly a quarter of the nearly $2.3 trillion that the president and Democrats say is needed.

The total for the five-year GOP framework comes in below the $600 billion to $800 billion range that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is spearheading the Republican planning, had floated last week, but Capito emphasized that it the proposal is the largest infrastructure investment her party has ever proposed. "This is a robust package,” she told reporters, adding that it is meant to serve as a starting point for bipartisan talks.

The White House said Thursday that it also sees the GOP offer as a basis for negotiations. "We certainly welcome any good faith effort and certainly see this as that, but there are a lot of details to discuss and a lot of exchanges of ideas to happen over the coming days," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. But some Democratic lawmakers have already criticized the GOP plan as too small, and many have suggested it is a non-starter.

What’s in the GOP outline: Republicans have objected to Biden’s expansive definition of infrastructure, arguing that it goes far beyond traditional programs by calling for large investments to speed the transition to electric vehicles and improve caregiving for the elderly and disabled.

The two-page framework released Thursday seeks to define infrastructure along narrower, more traditional lines. “It’s important that any infrastructure legislation have adequate funding levels and not be so large as to fail to launch, which means sticking to actual infrastructure. That’s why our framework works. It serves as a realistic, thoughtful approach that addresses the core areas of infrastructure that we all agree upon,” Capito said in a statement. Other Republicans behind the plan include Roger Wicker (MS), Pat Toomey (PA), Mike Crapo (ID) and John Barrasso (WY). 

Their framework includes:

• $299 billion for roads and bridges;

• $61 billion for public transit systems;

• $61 billion for ports, inland waterways and airports;

• $20 billion for railroads, including Amtrak;

• $65 billion to expand broadband infrastructure;

• $49 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and water storage;

• $13 billion for highway safety and other safety programs.

Big differences with Biden: As a reminder, Biden’s plan calls for $621 billion in funding for transportation infrastructure, including $174 billion for electric vehicles and $115 billion for road and bridge repair. So that section of Biden’s proposal alone would provide $53 billion more than the entire GOP plan, but the Republican plan would direct more than twice as much funding toward roads and bridges.

Biden’s plan also calls for spending hundreds of billions more on water projects, broadband and the electric grid — and he wants to provide $400 billion the help care for the elderly and disabled as well as hundreds of billions more for research and development, manufacturing investments and retrofitting homes and commercial buildings. You can see a comprehensive breakdown here.

What’s not in the GOP outline: The document released Thursday is vague on a key and contentious element of any infrastructure proposal — how to pay for it.

Republicans have rejected Biden’s call for higher corporate taxes and their framework does so again, saying that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, should be preserved and that Republicans are against “any corporate or international tax increases.” The document also calls for keeping the cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes, which some Democrats have sought to repeal.

But the GOP framework does not include specifics on pay-fors, relying instead on broad statements of principle — federal infrastructure funding “should be fiscally responsible and based on needs," should partner with state and local governments as well as the private sector, and should "flow through existing formula programs and proven discretionary programs."

Republicans have suggested covering the costs of an infrastructure plan through fees imposed on those who use the infrastructure and by repurposing unused federal spending. “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,” Capito said Wednesday.