Capito discusses infrastructure negotiations

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito wants to focus on the country’s infrastructure and the many things needing repaired and updated.

Capito, R-W.Va., talked Thursday on a video press conference with reporters from around the state, about a meeting she was going to at the White House with other Republicans to talk to President Joe Biden about a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Capito said they needed to narrow down the focus to “solid core infrastructure.”

She is defining “infrastructure” as roads, bridges, waterways, airports, rail, transit and broadband expansion, things that will “create a lot of jobs.” The president has a lot of “social infrastructure” in his bill, according to Capito.

“I think those are worthy things to discuss in another forum,” she said. “I hope we can reach some kind of agreement on that.”

Plans are being worked out so Trump-era tax cuts for corporations will not have to be rolled back to pay for it.

“The president and his party will have the option to do that through reconciliation and we will wait to see if that is the direction they will go,” Capito said.

The senator said she wants focus on physical infrastructure which she wants to look at paying for either through a vehicle miles travelled component to the gas tax, user fees for alternative energy vehicles whose owners don’t pay for maintenance or construction through the gas tax and repurposing of COVID relief funds where cities and counties could use their relief money for infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges, where they are able to use money for water systems and broadband expansion.

“I think we can also repurpose COVID funds that are not for an emergency past 2024,” she said. “That is hundreds of billions of dollars that is not scheduled to go out until that date.

“We are going to piece this together. We will see what we can do and what is acceptable on either side.”

On Thursday evening, Capito released a statement following the Biden meeting.

“I am very encouraged by our meeting with President Biden today. We had another positive and substantive discussion about how to address our nation’s infrastructure challenges in a bipartisan way. We listened to one another, and I felt that the president was receptive to our ideas and viewpoints. Going forward, my colleagues and our staffs will continue to work together and with the White House toward our common goal of addressing the core areas of infrastructure that we all agree upon,” Capito said.

She also commented on the voter reform bill, the “For the People Act.”

“I am opposed to this bill,” she said. “I think it is a power grab by the federal government into what is a state’s responsibility which is to formulate our election practices and make sure voting is open, fair and counted and as many people who can vote can vote.”

The bill as is allows ballot harvesting, where people can pick up groups of ballots and turn them in as opposed to people turning their own ballots. Capito feels unchecked harvesting can lead to fraud. There were also provisions which make it harder for deployed military to vote electronically, reshape the Federal Election Commission into a partisan organization and other things Capito did not agree with.

“It is just an enormously overarching reaction to a problem, in my view, doesn’t really exist,” she said. “States should be able to formulate voting practices the way they have for decades.”

There were 17 million more people who voted in 2020, under COVID restrictions, than voted in 2016, Capito said of states being able to adapt without the federal government having a direct hand in it.

The senator understands the privacy concerns surrounding the issue of vaccine passports. However, she thinks that they will be needed for people traveling internationally. Capito said she got her vaccination card laminated and carries it with her everywhere she goes.

“Personally, I am proud to show someone that I got a vaccination,” she said. “I feel a lot freer because I have it.”

Capito talked about U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney , R-WY, being removed from her leadership position in the House of Representatives.

“Liz Cheney is a friend of mine and I have great respect for her,” she said. “She is a very strong and valued member of the Republican Party and a good conservative.

“She has strong feelings about the President and the reactions to the election. She has expressed those. I think we need a big tent in the Republican Party and we need every voice. We need Liz Cheney’s voice, quite frankly.”

Capito thinks the election was won fairly and squarely by Biden.

“We need to look forward instead of looking back,” Capito said.

She didn’t know why others in the party are not doing that or why some are holding to the belief of “The Big Lie” that the election was somehow stolen from former U.S. President Donald Trump.

“You would have to ask them why they still support that,” Capito said. “I don’t know. I never supported that and felt confident in our election.”

She would want people to present the evidence to show fraud was involved.

The senator talked about the report issued on the failings at the VA Hospital in Clarksburg following the sentencing of Reta Mays to seven consecutive life sentences in prison this week for killing seven veterans there and trying to kill another at the facility.

Background checks were not conducted, access to drugs was too open without any security measures.

Capito is working on a bill that would require cameras in the halls at VA facilities to be able to monitor everything. She also doesn’t think administrators should get off when these things happen as she alluded to that a number of officials were moved to other jobs after this happened.

“We need to clean house at the VA, she said. “We have families who do not be able to see their loved ones again.

“I don’t think the VA does a good job of wiping the slate clean when something bad happens. This is a historic problem at the VA and it seems to be repeating itself in Clarksburg.”

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com


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