GOP senator says bipartisan infrastructure group wants to double Biden’s spending on roads and bridges

Bill Cassidy
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy says he’s working on an “alternative” to Biden’s multitrillion-dollar jobs plan.
  • “The money in our bill … would double the amount of money going for roads and bridges” compared to Biden, he said.
  • Cassidy was part of a key GOP working group that made a stimulus counteroffer to Biden this year.
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Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, indicated another major infrastructure plan was being drafted by lawmakers searching for another option besides President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion proposal.

“I’ll be meeting with governors and bipartisan group of senators and [representatives] on a bill which will be an alternative to the President’s proposal,” Cassidy told Louisiana reporters on Tuesday.

He continued: “As I look at it, the money in our bill – at least what I’m proposing – would double the amount of money going for roads and bridges compared to what the president is putting forward.”

Biden’s plan sets aside $115 billion to upgrade roads and bridges. That suggests a potential alternative plan from Cassidy could allocate at least $230 billion.

Cassidy added his state was hit with a low grade in the White House’s ‘infrastructure report card’ issued on Monday. “In Louisiana if we’re a ‘D,’ we need a lot more infrastructure and a lot less of that something else,” he said.

The Louisiana senator formed part of a group of 10 Republican senators who met with Biden earlier this year and pitched a $618 billion coronavirus relief counterproposal. They recently panned Biden for calling that package inadequate to address the crisis. Democrats ultimately approved a $1.9 trillion rescue plan without Republican votes.

It was not immediately clear whether Cassidy was drafting a plan in tandem with any of those GOP lawmakers. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Democrats favor a large package that ramps up spending on in-home care for the elderly and affordable housing. The GOP argues these measures go beyond traditional infrastructure, besides having a size and scope that are too large. They are also critical of hiking corporate taxes.

“There is bipartisan appetite for smart infrastructure bills that are built the right way,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. “There isn’t much appetite for using the word “infrastructure” to justify a colossal, multitrillion-dollar slush fund for unrelated bad ideas.”

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Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg backs Biden’s infrastructure bill, says ‘we’re still coasting on infrastructure choices’ from the 1950s

Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at a press conference in February.

  • Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg is helping rally support for Biden’s infrastructure plan.
  • Buttigieg said on Sunday the American Jobs Plan represented “a generational investment.”
  • The plan aims for upgrades in everything from roads and bridges to public schools and airports.
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US Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday promoted President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, making the case that the legislation would be transformational for the country.

During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Buttigieg said the American Jobs Plan represented “a generational investment” that would produce “economic growth that’s going to go on for years and years.”

“Infrastructure is the foundation that makes it possible for Americans to thrive,” he said. “And what we know is that foundation has been crumbling.

Buttigieg made the argument that the current transportation network, built up decades ago, has to meet the needs of a modern society.

“We’re still coasting on infrastructure choices that were made in the 1950s,” he said. “Now’s our chance to make infrastructure choices for the future that are going to serve us well in the 2030s and onto the middle of the century when we will be judged for whether we meet this moment here in the 2020s.”

Biden’s massive plan includes $621 billion in transportation infrastructure investments, with direct funding for road and bridge repairs, improvements in Amtrak passenger train service, lead pipe repairs, port and airport funding, and public school improvements, among other long-awaited projects.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is seeking to have a bill passed sometime in July, but the legislation’s fate also rests in the hands of the Senate, which the party only narrowly controls.

While Biden is seeking Republican input on the bill, Democrats have not ruled out passing an infrastructure package through the reconciliation process, which would only require a party-line vote.

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

In order to pay for the plan, Biden hopes to raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, which congressional Republicans vehemently oppose.

GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky last week said that in its current form, Biden’s infrastructure bill will be a hard sell for his caucus, especially if it is funded with “a combination of massive tax increases on businesses and individuals, and more borrowing.”

“I think that package they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side,” he said.

GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said on ABC’s “This Week” earlier on Sunday that a smaller infrastructure bill could be “a bipartisan, easy win” for the president.

“The other 70 or so percent of the package that doesn’t have very much to do with infrastructure, if you want to force that in a partisan way, you can still do that,” he added.

Buttigieg, along with Housing and Urban Development secretary Marcia Fudge, Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm, Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo, and Labor secretary Marty Walsh, have been tasked with helping rally support behind the plan.

Buttigieg emphasized during the Sunday interview that Biden’s plan would not only repair aging US transportation networks, but would strengthen the country’s economic standing and position it as a leader on climate change.

“America will be much more economically competitive, we’ll be stronger in terms of leading the world because of the research and development investments that are here, and we will be on track to avoid climate disaster because of the provisions for things like electric vehicles,” he said.

He added: “Those electric vehicles that more and more people around the world are driving will be increasingly made in America by union workers. This is what you get for planning for the long term.”

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Biden is reportedly discussing an infrastructure spending plan in the wake of devastating winter storms

Biden Texas Vaccine Speech February 2021
President Joe Biden speaks in Texas.

President Joe Biden and members of his administration have begun talking with congressional lawmakers about his plans to invest in the nation’s infrastructure, according to The Associated Press

Billions of dollars would go to transportation and infrastructure projects as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed by House lawmakers on Friday. 

But Biden’s plans for rebuilding the nation’s roads, highways, and bridges could have a much bigger price tag. As a candidate, Biden proposed a 10-year, $1.3 trillion investment. 

“Our nation’s infrastructure is literally crumbling,” the plan said. It continued: “It is unacceptable that one in five miles of our highways are in ‘poor condition,’ that tens of millions of Americans lack access to high-speed broadband, and that our public schools have repeatedly earned a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers.”

Biden’s team has used this month’s harsh winter storm in Texas, where millions lost access to power or water, as an opportunity to begin talks about his plans, per AP. That storm reportedly may have caused as much as $50 billion in damages. 

Earlier this month, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Homeland Security advisor, told members of the press the federal government and states would need to work together to prepare the country’s infrastructure for future challenges, including storms. 

“That’s going to require the kind of technology, innovation, and close collaboration among the federal government, states, communities, and the private sector that enables us to incentivize the kinds of actions that need to be taken to build critically – to build the kind of resilient infrastructure that we will depend on in the future,” Sherwood-Randall said.

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