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VOL. 45 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 23, 2021

Countering Biden, GOP pitches $568B for infrastructure

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a public works proposal with a much smaller price tag and a narrower definition of infrastructure than what President Joe Biden has proposed, highlighting the stark differences between the two sides that will be difficult to bridge in coming months.

The price of the Republican proposal came in at $568 billion over five years, compared to the $2.3 trillion that Biden has called for spending over eight years.

To help pay for their plan, the Republicans would rely on user fees, including for electric vehicles, and on redirecting unspent federal dollars. The outline does not offer specifics, such as which federal programs would lose unspent dollars to infrastructure. Biden has proposed raising the corporate income tax from 21% to 28% to help pay for his plan, a move the Republican senators rejected.

"This is the largest infrastructure investment that Republicans have come forward with," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., told reporters. "This is a robust package."

Republican lawmakers have been quick to criticize the infrastructure proposal from Biden. They say just a fraction of the spending would go to traditional infrastructure. Biden's plan devotes $400 billion to expand Medicaid support for caregivers, and substantial portions would fund electric vehicle charging stations and address the racial injustice of highways that were built in ways that devastated Black neighborhoods.

The Republican plan would dedicate $299 billion to roads and bridges, $65 billion to broadband internet and $61 billion to transit. Another big-ticket item: $44 billion for airports. Missing from the plan is Biden's focus on electric vehicle charging stations and caregiver support. The senators delivered their blueprint to the White House about 30 minutes prior to holding a press conference on it.

"We take the part of the president's plan that most Americans agree is real, hard infrastructure, we give it our touch and we think we have a very good number here," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Republicans earlier this year also offered a counterproposal to Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan. Their price tag came in at about one-third of what the president wanted, and he soon declared it inadequate. Democrats went forward on their own and passed the relief bill without the support of any GOP lawmaker.

Biden is spending more time this go-around listening to Republicans and voicing a willingness to consider their ideas, but the end result could be the same. Democrats are intent on passing a major infrastructure boost this year and could use the budget reconciliation process to bypass GOP opposition.

Capito said she is optimistic that compromise can be found this time.

"I've been reading this very closely," she said. "I feel like the White House and other counterparts on the House side want to try to reach a consensus, hard infrastructure bill."

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