MORGANTOWN — Sen. Shelley Moore Capito met virtually with members of the West Virginia press on Thursday to talk about President Biden’s American Jobs Plan infrastructure bill and a few other issues.
Capito, R-W.Va., offered mixed reviews of the plan, a position shared by her GOP colleagues.
On the one hand, she said, “Its a jobs bill. It’s putting our transportation sector into more modernized systems.”
Previous surface transportation bills have been bipartisan products, she said, and she’s hoping for that this time, as ranking member (senior Republican) on the Environment and Public Works Committee that crafts the initial bill.
But Biden’s $2.2 trillion proposal goes well beyond what she considers infrastructure and job creation: roads and bridges, broadband, water, and wastewater management. The issues are worth discussing, but not in an infrastructure bill.
“I think it’s a massive spending bill that really misses the mark,” she said. She’s working with EPW chair Tom Carper, D-Del., to try to get a bipartisan surface transportation bill.
The 27-page American Jobs Plan fact sheets describe some of Biden’s aims. It does include roads, bridges, ports, airports, transit systems, water, and broadband.
To that it adds the electric grid; repairing homes, commercial buildings, and schools; subsidizing home care workers; and voiding right-to-work laws.
He wants to invest $16 billion to plug orphan oil and gas wells and clean up abandoned mines; West Virginia has about 5,000 orphaned wells, and Capito favors those as job-creating efforts, whether in this bill or a separate energy bill.
It proposes $213 billion to build, preserve and retrofit more than 2 million affordable housing units; aims to void local zoning laws; proposes $25 billion to upgrade daycare centers; and proposes $35 billion for climate change research.
It includes $10 billion for a Civilian Climate Corps, $175 billion for electric vehicle subsidies, and $12 billion for community colleges.
Politico reports that Republicans are preparing a counter-offer in the $600 billion to $800 billion range, more focused on actual infrastructure, and not what’s been termed social infrastructure.
Capito discussed the GOP concern that the Democrats will again use reconciliation — a procedural measure to pass certain finance bills with a simple majority to avoid the filibuster — to pass a more-expensive and expansive bill, as they did with the American Rescue Plan that was only partially devoted to COVID relief.
“Are we going to get rolled in the same manner that we did with the COVID relief?” she asked. She hopes instead that they can reach some consensus.
One of the ways Biden proposes to pay for his plans is to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. Capito opposes that idea, she said in response to a question from The Dominion Post. She said she voted for the current rate when Congress passed President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017.
That corporate tax cut, she said, returned $1 trillion in foreign investment and no inversions of American companies to avoid U.S. taxes. “So I think that the desired effect of that bill has been accomplished.”
Wet Virginia saw higher employment, higher wages, and more diversity in the workforce, she said. “So I’m not going to be in favor of moving us into a less-competitive position.”
When Capito and her colleagues opposed the American Rescue Plan because it went beyond COVID relief, they were accused of obstructing COVID relief. Now they face the same accusation of obstructing infrastructure progress. The Dominion Post asked about that.
“I think it’s a tactic that is unfair,” she said. “To be attacked that I’m against infrastructure because I’m against figuring out how to put $300 billion into home health aides, which is not traditional infrastructure in my view, is an unfair attack.”
The Democrats cite polls that people favor infrastructure, and they do favor traditional infrastructure, she said. “I think there’s a political agenda here,” she said. “They can say whatever they want. Actually, it’s been fairly successful, unfortunately. But we’re going to keep plugging away at it.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., hasn’t expressed a position on the Biden plan. In answer to some questions from The Dominion Post, his office called attention to a Washington Post op-ed he penned. In it, he opposes ending the filibuster and relying on reconciliation to bypass GOP opposition.
All 50 states have equal Senate representation, he wrote, so that the small states and the big states, with their differing interests, all have a seat at the table. “The filibuster is a critical tool to protecting that input and our democratic form of government. That is why I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt: There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.”
He continued, “Unfortunately, our leaders in the Senate fail to realize what goes around comes around. We should all be alarmed at how the budget reconciliation process is being used by both parties to stifle debate around the major issues facing our country today. Legislating was never supposed to be easy. It is hard work to address the needs of both rural and urban communities in a single piece of legislation, but it is the work we were elected to do.
“I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate. How is that good for the future of this nation? Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues. Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.”