by Jack Birle
A group of Republican U.S. senators have unveiled a $568 billion plan that would look to rebuild and expand infrastructure nationwide and counter a more expensive proposal by President Joe Biden.
The GOP plan includes $299 billion for roads and bridges, $61 billion for public transit systems and $65 billion for broadband infrastructure. Also included in the plan is $20 billion for rail, $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater, $13 billion for safety, $17 billion in ports and inland waterways, $44 billion for airports and $14 billion for water storage.
Emphasized in the bill is the expediting of projects through regulatory processes and several measures to minimize new spending. The plan calls for repurposing federal COVID-19 relief funds that have remained unused, along with ensuring the federal debt is not increased.
U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Pat Toomey, John Barrasso and Roger Wicker discussed the infrastructure plan at a recent news conference.
“This is the largest infrastructure investment that Republicans have come forward with,” Capito said. “This is a robust package when we look at where we’re focusing our infrastructure needs.”
The Republican senators are hoping the proposal will reignite talks about a bipartisan infrastructure package.
“Our focus today is to say what our concepts are as Republicans as what infrastructure means, what our principles are in terms of pay-fors and to say to President Biden and his team and our Democrat colleagues: we’re ready to sit down and get to work on this,” Capito said. “The biggest message we want to put forward today is that this is important to us.”
Biden presented a $2 trillion infrastructure spending package, named the “American Jobs Plan,” on March 31 that included $115 billion for roads and bridges and $85 billion for public transit systems.
The Biden proposal also included a broader definition of infrastructure, with affordable housing projects and child care facilities being included in the plan. Most worrisome to Biden’s critics, though, is his plan to pay for it.
The president has proposed a significant tax hike on businesses, raising the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%, and instituting a series of tax law changes that would target larger corporations.
During the news conference, each Republican senator made clear their definition of infrastructure was more rigid than the broader interpretation used by the Biden administration in their plan.
“I’m pleased to come forth 10 days after meeting with the president with an offer that really should address what most Americans think of as infrastructure,” Wicker said. “As Senator Capito said, ‘what is infrastructure?’ It’s highways, bridges, it’s water and wastewater, it’s ports and rail, airports and certainly we all agree that broadband is part of it.”
At a press briefing on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki expressed optimism for talks between Senate Republicans and the Biden administration for a bipartisan infrastructure plan.
“The president has said from the beginning that he would welcome any good-faith effort to find common ground because the only unacceptable step would be inaction,” Psaki said. “We look forward to reviewing the details of the proposal.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted the Republican proposal, stating that it did not go far enough with its plans for funding and action.
“It goes nowhere near what has to be done to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and the funding is totally regressive and anti-working class at a time of massive income and wealth inequality,” Sanders said.
The group of Republican senators insist this proposal is only the groundwork for further negotiations with the White House and Senate Democrats.
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Jack Birle contributes to The Center Square.