The Democratic pushback indicates yet another legislative hurdle for the president, as Biden recently signaled that he would work with Republicans on carving a bipartisan infrastructure bill after meeting with members of both sides of the aisle at the White House on Monday.
But Democrats argue that spending less than $1 trillion and targeting traditional infrastructure is a non-starter on Capitol Hill, according to Politico, as Republicans are hammering out a GOP version of the infrastructure package this week, with an estimated cost between $600 billion to $800 billion.
“A far cry from $2.5 trillion,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said. “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.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) dubbed the proposal “totally anemic” and an “insult” to Biden’s proposal. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that “the Republican proposal does not meet the moment.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee who is spearheading the GOP infrastructure effort, told reporters that the offer will be unveiled “in the next several days” and met with the Senate Republican Conference to outline her vision for the package on Tuesday. The bill is expected to target physical infrastructure, in addition to other items like broadband and will be paid for by user fees and remaining money from the coronavirus relief package.
But Republicans anticipated the rebuke from their colleagues. They insist, however, to continue with the bipartisan talks over a smaller, more targeted package.
“Could we just kind of tone the rhetoric down here and really try to get something done?” Capito said on Wednesday. “I understand disagreement, but I read that we’re trying to stall it out and not make it happen. Or being too cheap? We’re talking about a very robust package here. Could we cut the prejudging?”
Capito is slated to convene with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday for lunch, where details of the GOP counterproposal will be discussed. Democratic Sens. Chris Coons (Del.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), both of which have expressed interest in striking a deal with Republicans, are expected to attend.
But one major area of disagreement is over how Congress plans to pay for the measure. Biden’s infrastructure bill plans to increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent— the rate which was set by former President Donald Trump in 2017—to offset the cost of the hefty proposal. Since the recent coronavirus rescue package was mainly funded through federal borrowing, Democrats are reluctant to pass another massive spending measure that would largely raise the deficit.
“We have underspent for generations now. And it shows in our airports, on our roads, in our mass transit, in our rail,” Warren said. “The Republicans are not willing to make the investments we need.”
It’s unclear whether the Republican counteroffer will see much success on Capitol Hill, as Democrats still hold small majorities in both congressional chambers. And even if the bill got to the Senate floor, Republicans would need the support from a handful of Democrats to stand behind the measure.
But if Democrats reject the bill, the party could attempt to squeeze Biden’s infrastructure bill through budget reconciliation and pass it with a simple majority.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.