Republicans Edge Closer To Biden's Infrastructure Goal

White House warmly receives Senate counter-offer even as it's far apart in key details

The White House is praising as progress a new, stepped-up counter-offer to President Biden's signature American Jobs Plan.

The new proposal from a group of Senate Republicans came just days after Biden himself lopped billions off his initiative in his own show of good-faith negotiation to see the once-in-a-generation infrastructure approved into law.

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee; Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), ranking on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), ranking on the Finance Committee; John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), ranking on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), ranking on the Rules and Administration Committee, offered the latest another infrastructure counteroffer.

The counteroffer was announced by Capito, Toomey, Barrasso, and Blunt during a press conference Thursday.

Details of the counteroffer can be viewed here.

The Republicans have upped their overall dollar figure while working to remain in the realm of such conventional infrastructure as drinking water and surface transportation, as opposed to the broader and more-modern interpretation which Biden's embraced in terms of things like electric vehicle charging stations.

“We want to focus on actual infrastructure. The platforms and services that move people and goods and services through our economy,” said Toomey. “That’s what people understand to be infrastructure, and we can reach an agreement if we focus on those items.”

Moreover, while Biden seeks approval for a modest tax increase on those making more than $400,000, the Republican offer avoids any tax hikes.

“This proposal is fully paid for. It doesn’t need to have any raises in taxes and avoids the big threat to the economy right now which is inflation…What we’re proposing today could pass in a bipartisan way…I would say to President Biden this is something that will work,” said Barrasso. "It will help the country. It would help the country move forward.”

White House Press secretary Jen Psaki described the new Republican offer as progress — while highlighting that the two sides still have work to do.

“We are grateful for the work of Senator Capito and her colleagues on this proposal. It is encouraging to see her group come forward with a substantially increased the funding level—nearing $1 trillion. We appreciate the hard work that went in to making this proposal and continuing these negotiations. Senator Capito told the President that her team would provide us with more details later today, and we look forward to getting that information,” Psaki said. “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,” she added.

Biden clearly is looking for further give from the Republicans in the weeks ahead.

“As for the path forward, the President called Senator Capito thank her for the proposal, and to tell her that he would follow-up after getting additional detail. We are also continuing to explore other proposals that we hope will emerge,” Psaki said. “Though there are no votes in Congress next week, we will work actively with members of the House and Senate next week, so that there is a clear direction on how to advance much needed jobs legislation when Congress resumes legislative business during the week of June 7.”