WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Republicans waved to President Joe Biden’s latest infrastructure proposal on Friday and are expected to make a new offer as talks move towards the deadline for progress on a bipartisan deal next week.
After posting a humble job report in May, Biden advocated its robust investment package to lead the economy into a new era beyond the COVID-19 crisis and downturn.
“Now is the time to build on the progress we’ve made,” Biden told reporters from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. “We have to make these investments today in order to be successful tomorrow.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has indicated that if there is no consensus, Biden will try to act without Republican support when Congress returns from recess on Memorial Day and the Democrats lay the groundwork for a stand-alone approach.
When asked about the June 7 schedule, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday it wasn’t a tough deadline. “We will keep our options open to see which ways we can go further.”
While Biden and the GOP Senators narrowed the price gap between his original $ 2.3 trillion proposal and the GOP’s opening offer of $ 568 billion, they remain wide apart, as they would for an uncompromising $ 1 trillion investment – to pay dollars.
Republicans show no interest in Biden’s latest proposal for one 15% minimum corporate tax rate that would ensure that all businesses pay some tax instead of allowing so many write-offs or deductions that they add zero to the public purse.
A Republican familiar with the talks and providing anonymity to discuss the private assessment said the GOP senators view Biden’s latest idea as an unnecessary tax hike.
Instead, when she speaks to Biden again on Friday, the Republicans, led by West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, are ready to come up with a revised offer, the person said. They will insist on using untapped COVID-19 tools to pay for infrastructure investments, the Republican said. Biden’s team rejected this approach.
Still, neither Biden nor the GOP senators seem willing to break off talks, even if the Democrats lay the groundwork for using budget rules to pass a large package with no Republican votes alone.
On Friday, House Democrats released a plan to spend $ 547 billion over the next five years on road, transit and rail projects, an outline of their priorities, and a potential building block for Biden’s larger package.
The proposal by MP Peter DeFazio, Democratic chairman of the House Transport and Infrastructure Committee, continues existing expiring programs and adds key elements to the broader measure Biden is negotiating with Republicans.
DeFazio’s legislation, a re-approval of land transportation programs that expires on September 30, does not regulate how the projects should be paid for. He called the effort a “unique opportunity to move our transport planning out of the 1950s towards a clean energy future”.
In addition to Biden’s proposed 15% minimum tax on corporations – there is now no minimum tax on corporate profits – he provides additional income from increased enforcement by the IRS. He is looking for around $ 1 trillion in new infrastructure spending. The Republicans in the Senate countered with an additional spending of just $ 257 billion.
The House of Representatives bill would authorize up to $ 343 billion for roads, bridges, and safety improvements. Another $ 109 billion would be used on public transit programs and $ 95 billion on freight and passenger rail, including a tripling of funds for Amtrak.
DeFazio’s bill is not expected to gain much backing from the GOP, as Republicans recently unveiled their own legislation that would authorize approximately $ 400 billion for road, bridge and transit programs over a five-year period .
The Republicans in the House of Representatives waved the bill in a statement. “Instead of working with Republicans to find common ground for a bill that could find strong bipartisan support – which our Senate colleagues successfully did last month – this bill is moving even further to the left to target the most progressive members of the majority party appease.”
A Senate panel recently unanimously passed its version of the Highway Act, but lawmakers have yet to vote on how they would pay for it, a focus of negotiations between GOP senators and the White House.
Business groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable have urged lawmakers to continue negotiations and work towards a bipartisan compromise.
But some Democrats have questioned the merits of this approach and are already dissatisfied with some of the compromises Biden has offered. They support applying a process that would allow Democrats to pass an infrastructure boost by a simple majority, which they achieved through a COVID-19 relief effort that delivered $ 1,400 payments for most Americans.
“Getting Republicans on board is not necessary. Getting the American people back on their feet is what, ”said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, DN.Y., Thursday evening.