Republicans have an idea who should pay to overhaul the country’s infrastructure: average people

Collins Romney Senate Republicans
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and a group of Senate Republicans speak to reporters outside the White House in February.

  • Infrastructure talks are gaining steam in Congress, and Republicans are floating new road taxes on drivers.
  • The GOP is lining up against a corporate tax hike, arguing it would hurt job growth.
  • Instead, they’re hinting they may support user-fees such as a raise to the gas tax or vehicle mileage tax.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Infrastructure talks are starting to gain momentum in Congress two weeks after President Joe Biden rolled out his sprawling $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

A Republican-led group of 20 lawmakers is gearing up to make a counteroffer in a bid to strike a bipartisan deal on a smaller package. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia floated one this week in the range of $600 billion to $800 billion. But there are fresh signs of discord among Republicans on the price tag and it’s far from settled.

The sole factor binding them together is opposition to Biden’s corporate tax hike. Capito called it a “non-negotiable red line,” and other Republicans like Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Susan Collins of Maine agreed they wouldn’t budge.

Instead, they are suggesting potential “user-fees,” a set of charges levied on the users of a federal service or good, such as raising the federal gas tax. User-fees have the support from the Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business group.

“My own view is that the pay-for ought to come from people who are using it. So if it’s an airport, the people who are flying,” Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters on Wednesday. “If it’s a port, the people who are shipping into the port; if it’s a rail system, the people who are using the rails; If it’s highways, it ought to be gas if it’s a gasoline-powered vehicle.”

That could shift the financial burden of an infrastructure overhaul from companies onto people, Kevin DeGood, an infrastructure expert at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, told Insider. It has triggered intense resistance among Democrats.

“If the Republican position is that we’re going only going to do this by raising the gas tax and we won’t accept an additional penny of corporate revenue, that won’t be something our caucus can get behind,” a Senate Democratic aide granted anonymity to speak candidly said.

Pressing Republicans to roll back Trump tax cuts is like urging Democrats to repeal Obamacare

The US generally funds infrastructure – encompassing roads, highways, and public transit like commuter rail – through a blend of state and federal funding. Only about a quarter of spending on transportation and water projects stems from the federal government now, per the Congressional Budget Office.

That’s down from a peak of 38% in 1977, leaving state and local governments to pick up more of the tab in recent decades. Biden’s last two predecessors urged more infrastructure spending. Former President Barack Obama sought to close corporate tax loopholes to repair roads, bridges, and tunnels in a jobs plan, but Republicans lined up against it.

Then former President Donald Trump pitched $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending during his 2016 campaign. Several efforts at a bipartisan package collapsed throughout his four years in office.

Now, a five-year highway funding bill expires in September, providing lawmakers with something close to a deadline to get their public-works priorities through Congress. Clashes are intensifying between Democrats urging tax hikes on corporations and high-earners, and Republicans pushing new fees on individuals.

Biden wants to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a partial repeal of Trump’s 2017 tax law. Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, said Republicans were unlikely to support rolling back their biggest economic achievement of the past decade.

“Republicans worked extraordinarily hard to enact a major rewrite of the tax code,” Riedl told Insider. “They’re not going to reverse their signature policy to pay for Joe Biden’s spending. That’s like asking Democrats to repeal Obamacare to pay for a Republican tax cut.”

He outlined a potential plan that would include repurposing unspent emergency stimulus funds to state and local governments, and moving federal money around in the annual budget.

Republicans floated a gasoline tax or a vehicle mileage tax on electric vehicles to finance infrastructure in lieu of business tax hikes. The federal gas tax hasn’t been lifted since 1993, and a vehicle miles-traveled tax has never been implemented at the federal level. Only two states have it in place, The Washington Post reported.

Business groups favor spending on roads and bridges, but don’t want to pay for it

Business groups generally want infrastructure spending, though targeted in scope. The Business Roundtable supports up to $1.5 trillion “to return US physical infrastructure to a state of good repair.”

“There are clear benefits to business from additional infrastructure investing, but we also think it’s unfair to ask business to shoulder or cover all of the additional costs of this public infrastructure investment,” Brendan Bechtel, a leading figure in the Business Roundtable, told CNBC on Wednesday.

But experts say there is simply not enough to be raised through charging new fees on drivers or other types of road taxes. “User-fees are not going to be sufficient and there are sectors that don’t have them,” DeGood told Insider. “For example, the Biden administration wants to put money into electrical transmission.”

Republicans are indicating they will favor a package that’s narrowly tailored to address roads, bridges, ports and other physical infrastructure. One Republican aide argued Democrats swelled the size of their plan, dampening the odds of a deal.

“I think this is going to turn into a slush fund for priorities for important constituencies and important members,” the aide said. “You’re going to get a much better work product if you have Republican senators involved in this. It will give it more longevity.”

Still, some Democrats such as Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said it may be possible to split off elements of Biden’s plan and strike a $1 trillion bipartisan agreement, giving Democrats space to push through the rest using budget reconciliation in a party-line vote. GOP lawmakers wouldn’t be likely to endorse that, according to Riedl.

“Republicans aren’t gonna allow themselves to be chumps like that,” Riedl said.”They won’t give bipartisan cover to a process that will run them over in the end using reconciliation.”

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Republicans are balking at how much state aid is in Biden’s stimulus, but Democrats maintain it’s necessary for a full recovery

Mitt Romney
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) is one of the moderates who claimed state aid in the stimulus is excessive.

  • Biden’s stimulus includes $350 billion in state and local aid, but tax revenues are only slightly down.
  • Democrats argue that more state aid is needed to ensure long-term economic recovery.
  • Critics say aid should be further targeted. States surprisingly haven’t lost much tax revenue — yet.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden wants to pump billions of federal stimulus into state and local governments as part of his $1.9 trillion package. But state tax revenues for 2020 were surprisingly healthy.

A JP Morgan survey called 2020 “virtually flat” with 2019 with regard to tax revenues for 47 states that reported their earnings, with revenues only falling by 0.12% on average. And while states expected to be hit hard financially when the pandemic began, the previous stimulus, including $600 weekly unemployment benefits, on top of the already allocated state benefits, allowed Americans to continue spending.

The results of the survey seem to support the conservative argument that states don’t need some or all of the funding in Biden’s relief package given that their revenues look fairly unscathed by the pandemic. 

The White House has pushed back on such criticism, saying it’s not in line with reality.

“I think our objective is to focus on not JP Morgan reports, but what state, local governments and others are telling us they need to ensure that the people in their districts, the resources in their districts, the people who are making government function in their districts have the funding and resources they need,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a February 1 press conference. 

But while states haven’t yet appeared to take significant hits in tax revenue, experts suggest that the worst is yet to come.

jen psaki biden capitol commission
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

The argument for state aid

Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan includes $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, and territorial governments “to ensure that they are in a position to keep front line public workers on the job and paid, while also effectively distributing the vaccine, scaling testing, reopening schools, and maintaining other vital services,” according to a White House fact sheet

This would be in addition to $150 billion of similar aid from last March’s CARES Act, Democratic state treasurers said in a letter that more aid is needed for long-term economic recovery.

“Congress has the power – and the responsibility – to step in and fill the gap during this emergency,” the treasurers wrote.

Some states badly need the aid already. According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, states such as Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada suffered the greatest revenue losses at 42.5%, 17%, and 11.8%, respectively, because of the lack of tourism during the pandemic. But some other states saw a gain in revenue, like Idaho, up 10.4%, and Utah, up 8%. 

And growing evidence suggests a big hit to tax revenues is coming, because of the ripple effect that mass working from home has had on commercial real estate.

Unnamed government finance officials told The New York Times that cities heavily reliant on property taxes could face revenue losses of as much as 10% in 2021 due to empty facilities during COVID-19. The Urban Institute found in 2017 that although property taxes account for roughly 1% of state tax revenues, they can add up to 30% or more of the taxes that cities take in to fund local services, so further aid through Biden’s plan will be necessary to prevent mass municipal layoffs.

Susan Collins-Rob Portman
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).

The argument against state aid

Since Biden introduced his stimulus package, Republican lawmakers have taken issue with its costly price tag, and 10 Republican Senators even came up with their own $618 billion stimulus plan. That proposal was notable for completely cutting out aid to state and local governments. 

“I think the biggest gap between the president’s proposal and the Republican proposal relates to [$350 billion] or so going to states and localities,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters. “That kind of number just makes no sense at all.”

“Unfortunately, the White House seems wedded to a figure that really can’t be justified …” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who led the GOP stimulus plan, told reporters on February 23. “So what we’re looking at now is whether there are changes that we could make.”

As Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported, moderate senators on the Democratic side think some of the state aid in Biden’s plan could be used for needs other than pandemic relief, such as broadband and healthcare.

Biden’s stimulus plan is set to be reviewed in the Senate over the next few days, and changes are already being made to the bill ahead of its expected passage in mid-March. 

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Biden hit with first Cabinet defeat as White House withdraws Neera Tanden nomination for budget chief

Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden.

  • Biden’s pick to head the White House budget office withdrew on Tuesday.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin came out in opposition to Neera Tanden’s nomination, jeopardizing her path forward in an evenly divided Senate.
  • Tanden sparked controversy because of her heated attacks on Republicans — and some on the left, too.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden was hit with his first cabinet defeat on Tuesday as his pick to oversee the White House budget office withdrew from consideration after generating resistance from a key conservative Democrat and a group of moderate Republican senators.

“I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday evening. “I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience, and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”

In a letter alongside Biden’s statement, Tanden wrote that the nomination was the “honor of a lifetime” and withdrew to not let the process become a distraction.

“I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has worked to win my confirmation,” Tanden said in a withdrawal letter released by the White House. “Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

Tanden’s nomination was imperiled after Sen. Joe Manchin said he opposed her nomination to lead the White House budget office last month. The West Virginia Democrat cited her “overtly partisan statements” as a potential hurdle to bipartisanship in Congress.

The loss of Manchin’s vote meant Democrats needed at least one Republican senator to support her in an evenly divided chamber where Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaker. Then her path to confirmation narrowed further after two centrist GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, announced their opposition as well.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the lone swing vote that could rescue Tanden’s nomination. The pair met in person on Monday, but Murkowski reiterated a day later she was still undecided on her confirmation.

Tanden’s history of caustic attacks on GOP lawmakers over social media as well as against independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont generated substantial controversy around her nomination.

Her social media posts prompted many Senate Republicans to strongly oppose Tanden. She once referred to Collins as “Scrooge” and also lambasted Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas as a “fraud” on Twitter.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio brought up the social media posts during Tanden’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee last month. She apologized, saying “I regret that language and take responsibility for it.”

Many of Tanden’s controversial tweets are no longer visible. Hundreds were deleted from her account in 2020 after Biden nominated her to lead OMB.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain recently said that Tanden would receive another job in the White House if her nomination fell through – one that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

Democrats assailed Republicans for hypocrisy because former President Donald Trump often tweeted scathing attacks against members of his own party. At Tanden’s second confirmation hearing on Feb. 10, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan contrasted Tanden’s social-media activity with Trump’s: “We’ve endured four years of the ultimate mean tweets.” 

Tanden, who was a close ally of Hillary Clinton for many years and advised her during the 2016 presidential campaign, also clashed with the Sanders camp over the direction of the Democratic Party in the 2016 and 2020 primaries.

During a second confirmation hearing, the Vermont senator sharply questioned Tanden about the corporate donations the Center for American Progress received while she helmed it, in addition to her social media activity.

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, Sanders would not reveal whether he supported Tanden’s confirmation and only acknowledged that she did not have enough votes.

“I will make that decision when the vote takes place,” Sanders said.

The White House and Biden initially said they would seek to shore up her support among Republicans to pave the way for her confirmation. “I think we’ll find the votes to get her confirmed,” Biden said last month.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Tanden had met with 44 Republican and Democratic senators so far and won crucial endorsements from the US Chamber of Commerce and labor unions.

“The president nominated her because he believes she’d be a stellar OMB Director. She’s tested,” Psaki said.  “She is a leading policy expert. She has led a think tank in Washington that has done a great deal of work on policy issues but has done a great deal of bipartisan work as well.”

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60% of Republican voters support Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, poll finds

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden waves after being sworn in during his inauguration on the West Front of the US Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.

  • 60% of Republicans support Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, a new Morning Consult poll found.
  • Only 17% of total voters opposed the president’s stimulus package.
  • The opinions of Republican voters conflict with those of Republican lawmakers, who say the plan is too costly. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan is steadily making its way to a full House vote, and although Republican lawmakers have been in staunch opposition of the bill, Republican voters seem to largely support it.

A Morning Consult/Politico poll released on Wednesday found that the public overwhelmingly supports the stimulus plan that includes $1,400 stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits, with support from 70% of Democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% of Republicans, with only 30% of Republicans saying they somewhat or strongly oppose the package. The poll is further evidence of support for the plan among Republican voters, as Insider previously reported that at least several aspects of the plan are popular with that cohort.

Only 17% of voters overall said they opposed the package.

“The stimulus package and Biden’s other economic plans have enjoyed support from voters so far,” the report said. “Sixty-four percent of voters said in January that they strongly backed additional economic stimulus, and 51 percent said in a separate poll that the federal government should continue spending even at the expense of the national debt.”

The poll also found that 56% of voters supported Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, and 67% supported the president’s executive order to expand food stamp access.

Since Biden first revealed the price tag of his stimulus plan, Republicans in Congress have been opposed to it, saying the plan is too costly. They even introduced a counter-stimulus proposal that was a third of the price tag of the president’s plan, but Democrats have remained committed to passing the president’s plan through budget reconciliation. 

The House is planning to vote on the president’s stimulus package on Friday, and the ruling from the Senate parliamentarian on whether a $15 minimum wage increase can be included in the reconciliation bill – which Republicans, and some conservative Democrats, have strongly opposed – is expected to come on Thursday. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont tweeted on Wednesday, “You cannot tell me that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a radical idea.”

Once the House bill goes to the Senate, Republican senators seem likely to entirely vote against the legislation, echoing how former President Barack Obama’s stimulus from 2009, addressing an economic crisis inherited from a Republican presidency, received zero Republican votes in the House. That package received three Republican votes in the Senate, including from moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who soon afterward switched parties.

Collins seems unlikely to support this one, however. She said on Tuesday that the lack of outreach from the White House was behind the partisan split in support for the bill, and on the same day, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the “$1.9 trillion stimulus bill is a clunker.” With Collins and Romney unlikely to support this plan, it may not get a single Republican vote in the Senate.

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Republicans cite lack of outreach for split on stimulus, but Biden made his plans clear weeks ago

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Republicans are citing Biden’s lack of outreach as a reason for not supporting his $1.9 trillion stimulus.
  • But Biden met with 10 GOP senators weeks ago, and he made clear he would prioritize speedy relief over bipartisanship.
  • The plan just passed the House Budget Committee, and Democrats plan to get it on Biden’s desk by mid-March.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

When President Joe Biden met with 10 Republican senators in the Oval Office on February 1 to discuss their counter-proposal to his stimulus plan, he made it clear that he wasn’t willing to decrease the size of the $1.9 trillion package.

But nearly four weeks after that meeting, some of those same moderate Republicans are now saying that a lack of White House outreach is a primary reason why they don’t support his package, despite having known what the president’s plans were for weeks now.

The Republican group, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, spearheaded the $618 billion stimulus proposal, which was a third of the cost of the president’s. But Collins told reporters on Tuesday that while Biden seemed willing to hear the GOP’s proposal, it was Biden’s advisors, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who have made bipartisan efforts difficult.

“I’ve had conversations with people at the White House, and other members of the group have as well,” Collins told reporters. “But I think the sticking point is that the White House staff seems very wedded to the $1.9 trillion thing.”

She added that Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, stood in the back of the room during the meeting and shook his head at every mention of decreasing the size of the stimulus package, confirming a Washington Post report that Klain visibly disagreed with them during that meeting.

Collins did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota also told reporters on Tuesday that GOP members feeling “unconsulted” is a primary reason for their lack of support for the president’s stimulus plan and said it “makes it hard for any of our members, even those that might be inclined to do so, to vote for it. To vote for anything.”

Biden not budging

Biden made his intentions for the stimulus package clear to both Republicans and Democrats, The Washington Post reported shortly after the Oval Office meeting. When it came to certain elements of the plan, like the income thresholds for stimulus checks, the president said he would be willing to compromise on the eligibility – but not the size – of the checks. 

And when it came to discussions on unemployment insurance, for example, Biden firmly told the group that he wasn’t willing to shorten the length of benefits, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who attended the meeting, told The Washington Post. 

“I’ve told both Republicans and Democrats, that’s my preference, to work together,” Biden told reporters on February 5. “But if I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice. I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now.”

In addition, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted at the end of January that cutting down the size of the package would never be an option.

 

Biden’s stimulus plan cleared the House Budget Committee on Monday, and it’s now headed to the House Rules Committee. Schumer said during a press conference on Tuesday that he aims to get the package to Biden’s desk before unemployment benefits expire on March 14. 

Many Democratic lawmakers abandoned the prospect of working with Republicans on the stimulus package early on, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont saying on January 24 that he would support reconciliation measures to get pandemic relief to Americans without Republican votes. 

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10 GOP Senators plan to propose a new compromise COVID-19 bill which would shrink direct payments to Americans from $1,400 to $1,000

Susan Collins-Rob Portman
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) speaks with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in the Capitol.

  • Ten GOP senators are planning to float a compromise COVID-19 bill capping stimulus payments at $50,000.
  • Under the GOP proposal, direct payments would be reduced from $1,400 to $1,000.
  • The senators want to meet with Biden and are urging Democrats not to push a package through via reconciliation.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A group of 10 Senate Republicans announced on Sunday they will soon unveil a $600 billion stimulus package in an effort to strike a compromise with the Biden administration.

The Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, also requested a meeting with President Joe Biden to discuss their proposal. The plan’s size is less than a third of the $1.9 trillion plan envisioned by Biden and most Democratic leaders in Congress.

“We recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the COVID crisis,” the letter said.

In addition to Collins, it was signed by Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Todd Young of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

Details about the forthcoming Republican plan trickled out on Sunday. Portman said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” it would aim the new round of direct payments to Americans who earn less than $50,000 a year and married couples making below $100,000.

According to Cassidy in a separate Fox News appearance, the direct payment amount would be cut from the current $1,400 Democratic proposal to $1,000. The Biden proposal has a provision for a fresh wave of $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans.

The Republican letter also sketched out more about the plan’s provisions. It would extend the $300 federal unemployment benefit; provide $160 billion in funds for virus testing and vaccine distribution; and provide extra money for the Paycheck Protection Program as well as schools.

Read more: The ultimate guide to Biden’s White House staff

Portman, who just last week announced that he would retire in 2022 after two terms, implored Democrats not to push a large relief bill through Congress using the reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority.

Portman and the other nine GOP senators are calling on Biden to act on his call for “unity” and confer with the GOP group in crafting a smaller compromise package.

“My hope is the president will meet with us,” Portman said. 

Since being sworn in, Biden has emphasized he is open to seeking a bipartisan deal with Republicans on an economic relief package. Brian Deese, a top White House economic advisor, said that was still the case.

Biden “is open to ideas wherever they may come,” Deese told NBC News on Sunday. “What he’s uncompromising about is the need to move with speed on a comprehensive plan.”

Democrats, though, are preparing to circumvent Republicans using reconciliation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Democrats would vote on a budget resolution this week, the first step in the process.

It appears unlikely the Biden administration will sign onto or adopt many elements of a GOP plan which curtails some of their top relief priorities like strengthened unemployment insurance.

“We have learned from past crises that the risk is not doing too much,” Biden said at the White House on Friday. “The risk is not doing enough.”

In December 2020, Congress passed a $900 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief package, which included $600 direct payments to individual Americans and $300 federal unemployment benefits until March 14.

Democratic leaders have set mid-March as a deadline for legislative action because millions of Americans stand to lose their jobless aid after that date.

At the time, Biden made it clear that the December package was only “a down payment” on a more comprehensive bill that he would seek to pass once he was in office.

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GOP Sen. Susan Collins thought the mostly white pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was ‘the Iranians’ at first

susan collins
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in a new op-ed said she initially thought the Capitol siege was the work of the Iranians.
  • “My first thought was that the Iranians had followed through on their threat to strike the Capitol,” Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote. 
  • Though it’s true tensions between the US and Iran have been heightened in recent weeks, it was no secret that pro-Trump extremist groups were planning to come to the Capitol and potentially engage in violence on January 6. 
  • The mob that stormed that Capitol was mostly white and visibly pro-Trump. 
  • Trump had also urged his supporters to come to the nation’s capital on January 6, advertising a “wild” protest to take place that day.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a new op-ed said she initially thought “the Iranians” were attacking when a mostly white, pro-Trump mob descended upon the Capitol on January 6. 

“My first thought was that the Iranians had followed through on their threat to strike the Capitol, but a police officer took over the podium and explained that violent demonstrators had breached the entire perimeter of the Capitol and were inside,” Collins wrote in the Bangor Daily News. 

The mob that stormed the Capitol wore “Make America Great Again” hats or carried Trump flags to exhibit their support for the president. The insurrection was also filled with members or sympathizers of extremist groups, who had made their plans for unrest at the Capitol quite clear online in the weeks and days leading up to the riot. 

Capitol protests
Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification

Trump had also announced that he would deliver a speech to thousands of supporters outside of the White House on January 6, so it was no secret that a large group of people angry about the outcome of the election would be in and around Capitol Hill that day. Trump had advertised a “wild” protest to occur on January 6. The president in his speech last Wednesday encouraged supporters to march to the Capitol building just before the riot, which ultimately resulted in five deaths. 

While it’s true that there’s been heightened concerns about the potential for a clash between the US and Iran in recent weeks, which was tied to the anniversary of Qassem Soleimani’s death, there were consistent warning signs about the potential for violence in Washington, DC, on January 6. 

“Everyone who was a law enforcement officer or a reporter knew exactly what these hate groups were planning,” Washington, DC, Attorney General Karl A. Racine told MSNBC on Friday. “They were planning to descend on Washington, DC, ground center was the Capitol, and they were planning to charge and, as Rudy Giuliani indicated, to do combat justice at the Capitol.”

Along these lines, Collins was mocked and derided online for initially believing the riot could’ve been the work of Iran. 

 

Collins has often been criticized for publicly criticizing Trump but backing the president during crucial votes. This was particularly true after Collins lambasted Trump over his dealings with Ukraine but voted to acquit him during the president’s impeachment trial last February. 

The Maine Republican was re-elected to the Senate in November.

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module

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