Wednesday, 16 Jun 2021

US Republicans unveil $928 billion infrastructure counteroffer

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US Senate Republicans unveiled a new infrastructure offer on Thursday (May 27) that would spend US$928 billion (S$1.22 trillion) over eight years to revitalise America’s roads, bridges and broadband systems, still well below President Joe Biden’s last proposal.

The plan, from a group of six Republicans led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, represents their counter-offer to a week-old US$1.7 trillion White House proposal that slashed more than US$500 billion from Mr Biden’s original US$2.25 trillion plan in a bid to reach a bipartisan agreement.

“Senate Republicans continue to negotiate in good faith,” Ms Capito told a news conference. “There is a real hunger for bipartisanship in the United States Senate.”

The Republican proposal includes US$506 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, with another US$98 billion allocated to public transit.

Mr Biden has imposed an unofficial end-of-May deadline on the negotiations, and some Senate Democrats have been pushing to go it alone if Republicans do not reach an agreement soon.

The White House has expressed willingness to negotiate on some of the finer details but has said it wants a large package that expands the definition of infrastructure to include items such as free community college and paid family leave.

To pay for it, the administration has said it is open to any ideas as long as they don’t include asking Americans earning less than US$400,000 to pick up the bill.

Republicans have said their offer matches parameters set by Mr Biden at a White House meeting on May 13, when they said he mentioned a US$1 trillion figure.

Republicans initially proposed a US$568 billion, five-year plan and increased the top line to around US$800 billion over eight years when the two sides met on Capitol Hill on May 18, according to the lawmakers.

The proposal still leaves the two sides hundreds of billions of dollars apart, with no agreement on the scope of a package or how to pay for it.

Republicans want the package limited to roads, bridges, airports, waterways and broadband access.

The group rejected the White House’s US$1.7 trillion offer, saying it still contained social spending provisions and tax hikes on US corporations that they have opposed.

Republicans instead proposed paying for the package with unspent Covid-19 relief money.

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