- Democrats assailed the two-page GOP infrastructure blueprint, calling it too meager.
- One Democratic senator said the GOP was “light years” away from their position.
- The prospect of a short-term breakthrough on infrastructure appeared scant.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Democrats had scathing assessments for the two-page Republican infrastructure outline released on Thursday, a sign that a bipartisan deal was not immediately in sight on one of President Joe Biden’s top economic priorities.
A group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia had unveiled the $568 billion infrastructure blueprint that was less a detailed plan than a two-page outline of principles. It amounted to about a quarter of Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion stimulus spending.
The GOP plan would spread out new spending over a five-year period, largely paid for with user-fees. It included no corporate tax hike, and set aside over half of its funding on to repair roads, highways, and bridges. Capito called it “a robust package” at a news conference.
But some Democrats sharply disagree – and they torched the plan as too meager to confront the dual crises of climate change and economic inequality.
“I think this Republican proposal is light years out of the ballpark in terms of being able to get a bipartisan compromise,” Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said on a press call. “They really dump it all on the backs of middle-class workers.”
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania pointed to the Republican plan slashing the $400 billion in-home elder care component of Biden’s infrastructure plan, calling it a “terrible insult” to average workers.
“When they eliminate every penny for that investment, that’s a slap in the face to not just older Americans and people with disabilities, millions of families would need this care over the next number of years,” he told reporters on the same press call.
Democratic opposition to the plan appeared to run deep, and aides said they were skeptical of Republican seriousness on cutting a deal. Insider granted anonymity to two aides so they could speak candidly.
“Having a two-pager with four bullets on four [revenue] raisers, I don’t think it’s very serious,” one Democratic aide said, referring to the GOP plan.
“It doesn’t do anything on climate, which is non-negotiable for our caucus,” the aide said. “We can’t let a decade go by without doing something more substantial on climate.”
“It’s a joke,” another Democratic aide said. “Their number is so low and achieves so few of the things even they agree are important. It’s not remotely in the ballpark of what is serious.”
Republicans recently defended the early plan, saying they sought to strike an agreement.
“Could we just kind of tone the rhetoric down here and really try to get something done?” Capito told Politico on Wednesday. “I understand disagreement, but I read that we’re trying to stall it out and not make it happen. Or being too cheap? We’re talking about a very robust package here.”
The plan set the stage for additional talks, though it was unclear how disagreements over revenue sources and the plan’s size would be bridged.
The White House said on Thursday it was ready to kick off negotiations with the group of Senate Republicans on an infrastructure plan. The GOP proposal drew Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s approval earlier in the day.
“The president has said from the beginning he would welcome any good faith effort to find common ground because the only unacceptable step would be inaction,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.