The Republican Party responds to Biden’s infrastructure plan with a $ 928 billion offer

(CNN) – Senate Republicans presented a $ 928 billion counter offer to President Joe Biden’s broad infrastructure proposal on Thursday morning, while one of the president’s closest advisers called on his allies to accept the White House proposals.
The group of Senate Republicans negotiating with Biden on infrastructure issues released its latest infrastructure counterproposal on Thursday morning, just ahead of the president’s latest effort to refocus attention on his infrastructure. broad economic agenda. The offer falls short of the trillion dollars that Senate Republicans had said Biden was willing to accept during his White House negotiations.

According to a document obtained by CNN, the Republican Party’s offer includes $ 506 billion for roads, bridges and large projects; US $ 98,000 million for public transportation systems; US $ 46 billion for passenger and freight railways; US $ 21,000 million for security; US $ 22,000 million for ports and maritime routes; US $ 56,000 million for airports; $ 22 billion for water storage in the west; US $ 72,000 million for water infrastructure; US $ 65,000 million for broadband infrastructure; and US $ 20,000 million for infrastructure financing.

The president said Thursday that he plans to meet with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who leads the GOP negotiating team in the Senate, next week to discuss the counter offer.

“I have not yet had the opportunity to review the details of Capito’s counter offer. We will meet sometime next week, and see if we can move forward, and I will have more to say about it then, “Biden told reporters on the track before leaving for Cleveland.

The GOP counteroffer is a sign that bipartisan talks will continue, but Republicans and the White House remain a long way off on new infrastructure spending and how to pay for it all. It’s unclear how close the two sides can get to reaching an agreement before Congress returns on June 7.

The White House pushes for more

The offer comes as Mike Donilon, Biden’s senior adviser and one of his closest aides, told his allies in an internal memo obtained by CNN that the timing is “a turning point.” for the future of the economy and the country.

Donilon sought to directly counter the GOP’s objections to both the scale of Biden’s proposal and the corporate tax increases he has proposed to pay for it.

“When Republicans criticize the president’s plan to rebuild our economy through long-awaited investments in our country’s infrastructure, they are criticizing what their own constituents have been asking for for decades,” Donilon wrote in the message distributed Thursday by the morning. “When they attack the president’s plan to get the rich to pay their share of taxes, they are attacking the basic sense of justice of the American people.”

Biden traveled to Cleveland on Thursday to present his economic proposals at a critical moment in bipartisan negotiations on a possible infrastructure deal.

“We turned around a pandemic that occurs once in the century. We turned around an economic crisis that occurs once in a generation, and families are beginning to breathe a little easier. We still have work to do, but our future is as bright and open today as it has ever been, ”said Biden, speaking from Cuyahoga Community College.

He continued: “And now we are faced with the question: What kind of economy are we going to build for tomorrow?”

Biden noted that Cuyahoga Community College was the venue for the last rally he was scheduled to hold as a candidate in March 2020, before the pandemic brought the country to a standstill. He highlighted his government’s response to the pandemic and the rapid progress the nation has made since that rally was canceled, as 50% of American adults have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

In addition to the national vaccination program, Biden discussed the comprehensive $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that provided financial aid directly to Americans and businesses.

The president showed a list of Republican lawmakers who have touted the investments of the COVID-19 relief act, or the “United States Rescue Plan,” joking that he would not name names, but saying, “Some are not ashamed.” Not a single Republican voted in favor of the COVID-19 relief law in Congress.

Biden lobbied for large-scale infrastructure investments, including research and development, arguing: “We must be number one in the world to lead the world in the 21st century. … And the starting signal has already sounded: we cannot allow ourselves to be left behind ».

The bottom line is this: Biden’s economic plan is working. We have had record job creation. We are experiencing record economic growth. We are creating a new paradigm, one that rewards the workers of this nation, not just those at the top, ”said Biden.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that the White House was “grateful” to Capito for the proposal, which she said “substantially increases the level of funding.”

“In a first review, we observed several constructive additions to the group’s previous proposals, including on roads, bridges and rail,” wrote Psaki. “At the same time, we remain concerned that your plan will continue to fail to provide substantial new funding for critical job creation needs such as fixing our veterans hospitals, building modern rail systems, repairing our transit systems, removing dangerous lead pipes and empower America’s leadership in a clean energy economy that creates jobs, among other things.

the state of the question

After weeks of advances and setbacks, until now a clear agreement has been reached, the counteroffer from the Senate Republican group is the latest point of conflict.

Biden, whose most recent proposal was $ 1.7 trillion, has indicated that he would be open to discussing a $ 1 trillion plan, senators have told CNN. But the disputes so far go beyond full cost, with vastly different views on the scale of any potential compromise proposal and how it would be paid for remain the main hurdles.

Biden has made it clear, both publicly and privately to his advisers and allies, that he sees value in reaching a smaller bipartisan agreement, even if it means postponing elements of his initial $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure and employment proposal. until a later effort. But he has also made it clear that he is unwilling to drastically reduce the scope of his proposal.

But the White House and the Republicans remain far apart. One reason is the fact that Republicans in Congress continue to offer fewer new spending than the White House wants. According to Republican advisers, that figure is around $ 257 billion, which is a far cry from the White House offer last week.

In their offer Thursday, Republicans reaffirmed that they want to pay for this plan using unspent funds from COVID relief, contributions from electric car users and the existing gas tax. However, the White House considers unspent funds from covid aid not an option because they argue that much of that money has already been spent. Republicans, for their part, remain unyielding when it comes to making changes to their 2017 tax bill.

Psaki essentially dismissed the idea of ​​using covid relief funds in a statement made later Thursday.

“The American Rescue Plan is working exactly as intended: providing relief to families, businesses and communities to bridge our economy towards the end of the pandemic and towards a strong recovery,” he said in a statement, adding that “the main provisions of the law for state and local governments, schools of basic education, institutions of higher education and child care providers have been almost entirely assigned. Local governments, schools and other entities are already budgeting for this year and the following with these funds.

The definition of infrastructure also remains a sticking point. The GOP proposal makes no concessions on the idea that they want this bill to be just about physical infrastructure. Although they increased their offering in some areas, they have not made adjustments due to the fact that Biden’s team has continued to include elements of home care in their proposal.

One possible avenue of agreement is the incorporation of parts of the Republican proposal to the five-year highway bill of Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware and a longtime ally of Biden, and Capito, which was approved by the committee anonymously this week. This could be a bipartisan “deal” that satisfies top Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and allow the White House to pursue the remainder of its agenda through reconciliation.

The aggressive strategy is meant to pass policies that the White House argues are popular. Donilon used the memo to insist on a key point that White House officials have tried to convey to their allies for months: The proposals Biden has brought to the table have broad support, according to polls. Donilon cites more than a dozen polls in the memo to make this claim, which officials see as an advantage in their negotiations with Republicans.

“The American people, across the political spectrum, sent a clear message, the question now is whether Republicans in Congress will listen,” Donilon writes.

CNN’s Donald Judd contributed to this report.

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