MORGANTOWN – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., joined with four other leading GOP senators Thursday to unveil their trimmed-down counter proposal to President Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan.
The Republican Roadmap, a five-year plan, comes in at about a quarter of the price: $568 billion.
“What I did with my Republican colleagues was to try to get a consensus document that would say, ‘This is what we believe Americans believe physical core infrastructure is,” Capito told members of the West Virginia press.
It proposes $299 billion for roads and bridges, $61 billion for public transit, $20 billion for rail, $35 billion for water and sewer, $13 billion for safety, $17 billion for ports and inland waterways, $44 billion for airports, $65 billion for broadband and $14 billion for water storage.
Neither the Republican Roadmap nor the American Jobs Plan are bills – both are frameworks to take to the negotiating table.
Capito, ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee that puts together surface transportation bills, said this is the largest infrastructure bill the GOP has ever put forth.
“So far, it’s been received well,” she said. She hadn’t heard from the White House at the time, but The Hill later reported that the White House said Biden is open to talks.
A Washington Post breakdown of the Biden plan shows that the transportation infrastructure portion accounts for $621 billion. Drinking water, broadband and electrical infrastructure total $311 billion. Affordable housing, schools, colleges and daycares, and “other” total another $396 billion. The caretaking economy, research and development, and manufacturing total $980 billion.
The Biden plan proposes $175 billion in subsidies to promote electric vehicles and turn the entire fleet of federal automobiles electric. Capito said the GOP plan incorporates a prior agreed-to plan for EV charging infrastructure and innovation.
“This is not prescriptive as to what everything is,” she said, adding climate will be part of the discussions.
Asked how much give there is in the GOP proposal, Capito said elements of the Biden plan, including caretakers, are not physical infrastructure and fall out of the purview of their plan. In the areas that correspond, they are much closer and in the coming days there will be apple-to-apple comparisons.
“This is where we go to the committees,” she said, as that’s where the horse trading and negotiation takes place. “Let’s show the American people we can do this the old-fashioned way.”
When the GOP issued a counter proposal to the American Rescue Plan, a piece of which dealt with pandemic relief, the Democrats ignored it and passed their bill through reconciliation – a process that allows certain money bills to pass with a simple majority, bypassing the possibility of filibuster.
Capito said there’s more hope this time around, in part because many things Biden wants can’t be accomplished through reconciliation. The White House told The Hill that the prior bill was an emergency package, for this one there’s time to talk.
The American Jobs Plan would be paid for in part by a hike in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a move Capito and her Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin oppose in different ways.
The GOP plan involves no tax hikes, Capito said. It would use existing user fees – the federal fuel tax – and impose some user fees on electric vehicles, which pay no fuel tax. A mileage fee is one idea floated. There’s also hundreds of billions of unspent American Rescue Plan dollars that wouldn’t be spent until 2024 and could be repurposed for job-creating infrastructure projects.
And the Highway Trust Fund has more than $200 billion, she said. Ultimately, that’s a job for the Finance Committee.
Manchin Wednesday talked about funding some West Virginia projects. Capito answered a similar question Thursday.
“We are going to fund as much as we possibly can out of King Coal, Coalfields Expressway and Corridor H,” she said.
Capito is also on the same page with expedited permitting to make sure projects don’t face expensive, multi-year bureaucratic delays. She said during the announcement of the plan before the West Virginia press conference, “If we’re going to really modernize and make sure that we’re moving in a direction that we, I think, as Republicans and Democrats want to move, we’ve got to look at serious permitting reform.”
She can’t say they will be totally funded but they will do what they can, she said. It’s to the state’s advantage it had a Republican and a Democrat in the Senate working to get money to those projects.
“The American people really want to see us working together,” Capito said during the announcement. Along with EPW, four other committees will weigh in on whatever bill comes forward: Commerce, Banking, Finance and Energy & Natural Resources.