- Republicans are starting to draft an infrastructure plan in a bid to strike a deal with Biden.
- It may shift the financial burden of the plan onto people instead of large corporations.
- The plan could come in at less than half of the $2.3 trillion proposal laid out by the White House.
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A group of Senate Republicans is assembling an infrastructure plan, part of a bid to strike a deal with President Joe Biden on a package that’s more narrowly targeted in scope.
The Republican faction appears to consist of the same 10 GOP senators who pitched Biden a $618 billion stimulus package in early February. Those negotiations didn’t yield a breakthrough, as the Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus without any Republican votes.
These infrastructure proposals are shaping up to be similar, as the Republican group is preparing to unveil an infrastructure bill likely worth $600 billion to $800 billion, much smaller than Biden’s $2.3 trillion plan.
The bloc includes Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.
Here are some emerging outlines of the plan, based on comments from those Republican lawmakers:
- $600 billion to $800 billion price tag.
- Focused on roads, bridges, highways, airports, water and broadband.
- May double the spending on roads and bridges from Biden plan ($115 billion).
- Financed with “user-fees” such as a tax on vehicle-miles traveled.
- No corporate tax hikes.
Romney said told reporters the plan remained in its “early stages,” an indication many details still need to be hashed out. Yet the developments could lead to weeks of negotiations between the Republican-led group and the White House on a smaller infrastructure plan.
Capito on Wednesday said “a sweet spot” for an bipartisan infrastructure deal would range between $600 billion to $800 billion – less than half of the $2.3 trillion package Biden laid out.
“What I’d like to do is get back to what I consider the regular definition of infrastructure in terms of job creation. So that’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, including broadband into that, water infrastructure,” she told CNBC.
‘The people who are using it’ should pay for infrastructure
Other Republicans say they would back shifting the cost of the package from large companies onto the “users” who benefit from government spending. Many are strongly opposed to reversing the Trump tax law to pay for an infrastructure overhaul.
“My own view is that the pay-for ought to come from people who are using it. So if its an airport, the people who are flying,” Romney told reporters. “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.”
Romney also said he supports implementing a mileage fee on drivers of electric vehicles. Then Capito suggested redirecting unused stimulus money to pay for an infrastructure plan among other measures.
“We’re going to look at Vehicle Miles Traveled as a possibility when you look at fleets or when you look at electric vehicles. We’re going to look at assessing electric vehicles for road usage even though they don’t pay into the gas tax,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cassidy is pushing for an even bigger federal commitment to repair roads and bridges.
“Something I would like to see is double the money for roads and bridges,” he said Wednesday, adding he was in talks on a plan alongside Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, the head of the National Governors Association.
News of the Republican plan triggered some early criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who heads the Senate Budget Committee.
“We have a major crisis in terms of roads, bridges, water systems, affordable housing, you name it. [The GOP price tag] is nowhere near what we need,” he told reporters on Wednesday.