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Capito, Senate Republicans unveil infrastructure proposal

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito speaks to reporters Thursday about the Senate Republicans’ infrastructure plan. (Screengrab)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and several Republican senators unveiled their own infrastructure plan in hopes of finding compromise with President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

Capito, R-W.Va., the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, spoke with reporters Thursday about the Republican Roadmap, an infrastructure package unveiled earlier Thursday at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol.

“Our purpose today is to say what our concepts are as Republicans as what infrastructure means, what our principles are as far as pay-fors, and then say to President Biden and his team and our Democratic colleagues that we’re ready to sit down and get to work on this,” Capito said. “Our biggest message that we want to put forward today is this is important to us.”

The Republican Roadmap would cost $568 billion over five years and is focused on traditional infrastructure projects. The plan would be paid for with user fees, extending user fees to owners of electric vehicles, and using unspent federal COVID-19 relief funds. The Republican Roadmap includes no tax increases and leaves the 2017 tax cuts put in place by former president Donald Trump.

“I think it’s important for you to realize that this is the largest infrastructure investment that Republicans have come forward with,” Capito said. “This is a robust package when you look at where we are focusing our infrastructure needs.”

The plan includes $299 billion for repair and construction of highways and bridges; $61 billion for public transportation; $20 billion for Amtrak and other rail projects; $35 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water and wastewater projects; $13 billion for highway and pipeline safety, as well as the transportation of hazardous materials; $17 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for improvements for ports and waterways; $44 billion for airport improvements; $65 billion for broadband expansion; and $14 billion for water storage.

Capito said Senate Republicans don’t necessarily see one bill dealing with infrastructure, but multiple bills. A clean drinking water infrastructure bill passed unanimously by the EPW Committee could be in front of senators as soon as next week.

Last month, Biden proposed a $2.3 trillion broad infrastructure. The plan represents spending proposals and tax credits over an eight-year period aimed at improving roads and bridges, drinking water systems, broadband expansion, public transportation, climate change and clean energy initiatives.

The plan also includes some unconventional proposals Republican said are not true infrastructure. It also provides funding for home care for seniors and the physically and developmentally disabled. The plan would be paid for by rolling back tax cuts put in place by Trump and raising corporate tax rates up to 28 percent to offset the spending over 15 years.

According to Politico, several Democratic U.S. senators were already criticizing the plan as too small Wednesday before any specific details were released. The Biden administration received the Republican Roadmap on Thursday morning and had not released any comment. Republicans also met with Biden on Monday to discuss infrastructure.

“I’m pleased to come forward after meeting with the President with an offer that really should address what most Americans think of as infrastructure,” said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. “We take the part of the President’s plan that most Americans agree is real, hard infrastructure, and we give it our touch, and we think we have a very good number here.”

“I think this is a very constructive proposal, and as you can see, it consists of actual real infrastructure,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. “While President Biden would like to do all kinds of things that have nothing to do with infrastructure, my view is we can have that discussion at some point in time, but what we ought to focus on is what we seem to have agreement on, which is a significant investment in infrastructure.”

Capito was one of 10 Republican senators who tried to negotiate a smaller $619 billion coronavirus relief package with Biden, only to have Biden and congressional Democrats move forward with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

This time, Capito believes things are different. While some part of Biden’s infrastructure can be pushed through the U.S. Senate using reconciliation which only involves a simple majority, other parts of the plans will require 60 votes to move forward, meaning the support of Senate Republicans will be needed. Capito hopes that Democrats are more willing to work in a bipartisan manner this time.

“Through other members of the Senate, through the President himself, that there have been overt signals that carving out the hard infrastructure part of a bill would be something they would at least take a serious look at,” Capito said. “Over the last several weeks, the President has said ‘Hey Republican, give me a plan and let’s look at what it might be.’ I’m taking that as a signal of wanting to go a different direction.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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