Senate Republicans Unveil $928 Billion Infrastructure Offer

WASHINGTON—Senate Republicans presented a $928 billion infrastructure plan to the White House, narrowing the gap with the White House’s latest $1.7 trillion offer as the two sides attempt to break an impasse over the scope of an infrastructure package and how to pay for it.

The $928 billion plan is an increase from the GOP’s original, five-year $568 billion proposal, dedicating funding to roads, bridges, rail and transit systems over eight years. The GOP negotiators said they would seek to pay for the offer by redirecting federal Covid-19 aid, an idea that Democrats are set to oppose.

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While President

Biden

had set a Memorial Day deadline for making progress in the bipartisan talks, the White House said that the negotiations, which have lasted for months, would move into June. Republicans panned the White House’s $1.7 trillion offer last week, itself a decrease from the Biden administration’s original $2.3 trillion plan, arguing that the White House hadn’t narrowed its proposal enough.

About $257 billion of the GOP offer is above baseline levels, projected federal spending if current programs continued, according to the Republicans. The White House has said the entirety of its $1.7 trillion plan is above current baseline levels, though Congress will need to set new baseline spending by the end of this fiscal year.

“We recognize that your most recent offer leaves us far apart and, coupled with your Memorial Day deadline, leaves little time to close the gap,” the Republican negotiators wrote in a memo to Mr. Biden on Thursday.

The Biden Agenda and the Economy

In a statement, White House press secretary

Jen Psaki

said the administration expected to receive more information about the GOP proposal. She said the White House is concerned about the plan’s lack of funding for items such as veterans’ hospitals and its call to redirect Covid-19 aid.

Ms. Psaki said Mr. Biden had spoken with

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

(R., W.Va.), the lead GOP negotiator, on Thursday, and that talks would continue next week.

The White House offer includes money for provisions that Republicans argue shouldn’t be considered infrastructure, including $400 billion for caring for elderly and disabled Americans. The White House has maintained that that money—along with other funding Republicans have criticized—should remain in the package.

“I mean I would say that is the big question, is the scope,” Mrs. Capito said Thursday.

The other major question looming over the talks is how to finance the package. The single-page Republican plan doesn’t include a specific method of covering the full cost of the package, though negotiators said that aid Congress approved for coronavirus relief could be steered toward infrastructure. Existing transportation revenue, including the federal gas tax, would also cover some of the cost.

“In terms of pay-fors, there are other things that we’re willing to put on the table, and we’ll see if they are,” said

Sen. Roy Blunt

(R., Mo.), one of the negotiators. Mr. Blunt listed collecting fees from electric vehicles as one possibility, though the White House has said it would oppose any increase in user fees.

Republicans and Democrats both support spending on America’s infrastructure, but an agreement on a bill is still a long way from coalescing. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains why skepticism is growing on both sides about whether the two can come together on this topic. Photo illustration: Ang Li

Mr. Biden has proposed paying for his plan by raising taxes on corporations, including by bringing the corporate rate to 28% from 21% and raising taxes on U.S. companies’ foreign earnings. Republicans have said they won’t support any form of tax increases.

The GOP negotiators have said that their offer reflects statements Mr. Biden made to them during a private meeting earlier this month. Republicans say Mr. Biden said he was supportive of a $1 trillion plan over eight years during the meeting, though White House press aides haven’t confirmed the exchange.

Some Democrats are pushing for the party to abandon the bipartisan negotiations and instead use their narrow control of the House and Senate to advance an infrastructure bill without GOP support.

“The president has said he’s going to try and do this on a bipartisan basis, which I think he has done in good faith, but we cannot let it slow it down. Right now, we’re continuing to push all the infrastructure pieces forward, but the clock is running,”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

(D., Mass.) said.

To avoid the 60-vote threshold required for most legislation in the Senate, Democrats would need to use a budget maneuver called reconciliation to approve the bill.

Passing legislation through reconciliation requires approving a budget in Congress, and the release of the White House budget this week will help Democrats to move forward with the process. Democratic Senate aides have started early conversations on how to advance a package through reconciliation, according to people familiar with the conversations.

But there are some signs of bipartisan progress. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously advanced a $304 billion reauthorization bill on Wednesday, legislation that lawmakers see as a possible component of a broader infrastructure deal.

Another group of lawmakers, including Sens.

Mitt Romney

(R., Utah) and

Joe Manchin

(D., W.Va.), have been holding their own discussions on infrastructure, preparing a plan to release if the talks between Republicans and the White House fall apart.

The negotiations going forward will be a test of party leaders to manage their own ranks, as Democrats push for a larger package and Republicans remain skeptical of major federal spending efforts.

“I think a number that starts with ‘T’ is a psychological barrier to some and it’s a psychological victory to others,” said

Sen. Kevin Cramer

(R., N.D.).

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

Write to Andrew Duehren at [email protected]

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