A group of Republican senators counter-offered the Biden administration’s $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan with a proposal that would spend around $928 billion instead — with much of the money coming from already expected spending levels.
According to The Washington Post, the bulk of the money would be spent on roads— $500 billion — but another $214 billion would be set aside for public transportation ($98 billion), water infrastructure ($70 billion), and passenger rail ($46 billion).
About a quarter of the money, reports the Post, would be new spending; the rest would come from hundreds of billions in unspent stimulus money or pre-planned spending.
During a press conference Thursday, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the lead Republican in the infrastructure negotiations, said that the $928 billion cost of the plan would be spent over eight years. The Republican lawmakers emphasized the plan sticks to a definition of infrastructure that most Americans would actually recognize as infrastructure.
“We want to focus on actual infrastructure,” said Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA). “The platforms and services that move people and goods and services through our economy, that’s what people understand to be infrastructure, and we can reach an agreement if we focus on those items. “
According to The New York Times, Biden told reporters Thursday, before boarding AirForce One, that he had not yet reviewed the counter-offer. It was spearheaded by four Republican senators.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday that the Biden administration was encouraged to see the counter-offer from Republican senators, but seemed to remain critical of parts of the plan. Psaki wrote:
At first review, we note several constructive additions to the group’s previous proposals, including on roads, bridges and rail. At the same time, we remain concerned that their plan still provides no substantial new funds for critical job-creating needs, such as fixing our veterans’ hospitals, building modern rail systems, repairing our transit systems, removing dangerous lead pipes, and powering America’s leadership in a job-creating clean energy economy, among other things. Lastly, we are concerned that the proposal on how to pay for the plan remains unclear: we are worried that major cuts in COVID relief funds could imperil pending aid to small businesses, restaurants and rural hospitals using this money to get back on their feet after the crush of the pandemic.
The Biden administration’s initial proposal, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, was a $2.3 trillion spending package that included an expansive definition of infrastructure, such as $400 billion for solidifying “the infrastructure of our care economy.” Despite criticism of their infrastructure proposal, the White House defended its definition of the word.
“So many people said, ‘Oh, the $400 billion that are being proposed for the home care workers or the home care sector, that’s not really infrastructure,’”Cecilia Rouse, a top White House economist, told Reuters in an April interview. “Well I beg to differ. I can’t go to work, if I don’t have someone who’s taking care of my parents or my children.”
After a group of Republican lawmakers proposed a $568 billion plan instead, the White House dropped the cost for its infrastructure spending plan down to $1.7 billion. Disagreements on the cost and how to pay for it have continued.
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