Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

Senate Republicans unveil narrow offer for new spending to counter Biden’s $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan.

Senate Republicans countered President Biden’s latest infrastructure offer on Thursday, suggesting $928 billion in total spending over eight years as lawmakers and the administration struggle to narrow vast policy differences and assemble a bipartisan package to address the nation’s public works system.

Compared to Mr. Biden’s latest offer to spend $1.7 trillion in new funds, the Republican counterproposal appeared to include just a fraction of new spending on top of the expected reauthorization of current programs. Republicans also suggested paying for much of the plan by repurposing funds from the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief law, a proposal White House officials have panned in recent days.

A quartet of Republicans who proposed the plan, led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, said it was the latest indication that the party was negotiating in good faith, after initially offering a $568 billion plan for five years’ worth of overall spending. The group also included Senators Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

“We believe that this counteroffer delivers on what President Biden told us in the Oval Office,” Ms. Capito said, referring to a private meeting the senators held with the president earlier this month. “It sticks to the core infrastructure features.”

But it was clear that divisions remain over how much new money to invest in infrastructure and how to pay for what could be one of the most significant federal infrastructure packages in recent history. Republicans again called Mr. Biden’s proposals to undo elements of the 2017 tax law a nonstarter, while the White House has resisted repurposing unspent funds and increasing user fees.

Optimism for a bipartisan deal on infrastructure has dwindled despite an exchange of offers between the administration and Republicans, who have continued to object to Mr. Biden’s ambitions for the scope and size of a package. White House officials have expressed frustration with lawmakers’ reluctance to significantly increase the amount of new spending.

Several Democrats, wary of losing valuable time or failing to act on their key priorities, are urging leaders to abandon the pursuit of bipartisan talks and use the fast-track budget reconciliation process to advance the legislation. A bipartisan group of senators is also quietly discussing their own proposals as a possible alternative to completely circumventing Republican input.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also unanimously advanced on Wednesday a $304 billion reauthorization transportation bill, an effort that Ms. Capito said was “a major anchor” for a bipartisan accord.

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