WASHINGTON — Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., has made it clear she does not support all of Pres. Joe Biden’s more than $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, but she will insist that any infrastructure plan that is passed will include money for the King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway.
“That must be part of it,” she said, referring to the federal 80 percent match of highway and bridge construction projects.
Both projects are stalled, with construction being done piecemeal as money becomes available. Total cost to complete the Coalfield Expressway has been estimated at about $1 billion by the state Department of Transportation, but an estimate on the King Coal Highway was not available.
However, only $115 billion of Biden’s plan is directly earmarked for roads and bridges.
“I strongly support passing a bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization bill that makes long-term investments in our nation’s roads and bridges, while also spurring job creation and economic growth,” she said. “There won’t be bipartisan support for spending trillions of dollars on left wing policies. However, there will be support for a robust bill that invests in our roads and bridges, streamlines project delivery, and preserves flexibility for our states.”
After the jobs plan was spelled out by the President recently, Capito, who is ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, was quick to respond.
“The EPW Committee has a track record of delivering strong, unified solutions that address a wide variety of our nation’s top infrastructure needs,” she said. “In 2019, our committee unanimously reported a bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization bill, which demonstrated that we can come together and find solutions to our pressing transportation challenges. And, just last week, our committee unanimously reported legislation to rebuild our nation’s water systems. This proves that infrastructure can and should be done on a bipartisan basis.”
Capito said the jobs plan is partisan and
“goes far beyond what constitutes as infrastructure, but the Senate continues negotiations between members of both parties.”
“As I have said before, I am committed to working together to craft a robust surface transportation reauthorization bill and other infrastructure legislation,” she said. “However, that’s not what the president is proposing today. Instead, President Biden’s so-called ‘jobs’ proposal is a clear attempt to transform the economy by advancing progressive priorities in an unprecedented way. The proposal would aggressively drive down the use of traditional energy resources and eliminate good-paying jobs in West Virginia and across the country.”
Paying for the plan would hurt the economy as well, she added.
“Perhaps worst of all, it would burden the American economy with tax increases as our country attempts to recover from economic hardship,” she said. “Regardless of the president’s partisan proposal, I stand ready to be a partner in advancing infrastructure legislation in a bipartisan way—just as we have in the past. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also has not expressed support for the entire plan and has taken issue with the proposed way to pay for it: raising the corporate tax from 21 percent to 28 percent.
Manchin recently said he would prefer to see a compromise of 25 percent.
But neither he nor Capito has so far specified exactly which parts of the Biden plan they would not support.
Details of the jobs plan money allocation include:
• $174 billion to “encourage the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles (EV) by granting tax credits and other incentives to companies that make electric vehicle batteries in the United States instead of China. The goal is to reduce vehicle price tags.”
Capito recently said the EV industry is expected to grow as American auto manufacturers already plan to move in that direction, eventually seeing EVs as the primary products.
• $400 billion for community-based support for in-home care in part as a salve to “underpaid and undervalued” workers in that industry, who are disproportionately women of color.
• $300 billion to promote advanced manufacturing, including a four-year plan to restock the country’s Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in preparation for future pandemics.
• $100 billion to modernize the electric grid.
• $85 billion for public transportation.
• $80 billion for Amtrak and rail freight.
• $45 billion for water projects to provide clean drinking water for everyone.
• $20 billion for complete streets: streets with sidewalks, bike lanes and facilities for transit that can help make short walks safe and accessible for more Americans.
Manchin and Capito are both promoting a bipartisan effort on the plan.
With a 50-50 split in the Senate, Manchin’s support is crucial, as it was on the $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus plan.
But as he did then, Manchin is calling for the infrastructure plan to be a bipartisan effort.