A group of Senate Republicans reportedly began hammering out a broad counterproposal to President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure package on Tuesday, coming in at roughly one-third the price of the president’s big-spending measure, with details expected to be released later this week.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee who is spearheading the effort, told reporters that the GOP offer will be unveiled “in the next several days.” Although the proposal will lack specifics, Capito noted it will outline projects with methods to fund them and floated a $600 billion to $800 billion price tag. A source who attended Tuesday’s GOP meeting provided a more specific range, estimating it would cost between $550 billion and $880 billion.
“You will be able to see a contrast,” Capito said.
The West Virginia lawmaker’s comments come as Democrats are trying to push through Biden’s infrastructure bill by budget reconciliation, a legislative procedure that would bypass a Senate filibuster. But Capito’s efforts signal a possibility for Democrats and Republicans to strike a deal on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, though both sides of the aisle remain polarized on provisions that cover social spending and how to pay for the overall measure.
Biden has proposed boosting the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from the 21 percent set by former President Donald Trump in 2017 to help pay for the package. Republicans, however, largely disagree with the president’s funding tactics, as Capito and other GOP lawmakers behind the effort proposed paying for the plan with user fees, like highways, rail lines, ports and airports. Another option that Capito proposed was to use the remaining money from the coronavirus relief package.
Most Republicans, including Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), want to target the impending package to cover traditional infrastructure, in addition to other items like broadband.
“When you look at the Biden administration plan, even if he used the most generous definition including broadband and water infrastructure and so on, it’s probably 20 percent of the plan,” Portman said. “So we’re trying to narrow it down to infrastructure. And then of course, we’re looking at ways to pay for it.”
Biden’s bill also includes spending to train millions of workers, as well as money to back labor unions and providers of home care for the elderly and disabled individuals.
Democratic senators like Chris Coons (Del.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) have also expressed openness to working with Republicans on drafting a bipartisan package that focuses on physical infrastructure needs, followed by a larger, broader spending bill by budget reconciliation, which would only need the support from Democrats.
Biden met with a group of bipartisan lawmakers on Monday, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and reportedly asked Republicans to provide a counteroffer mid-May, with details on how to fund the efforts.
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.