Mitch McConnell draws a red line at $600 billion for infrastructure and jobs – and says Trump tax cuts are off-limits

McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Samuel Corum/Getty Images
  • Mitch McConnell said the GOP wouldn’t cut a deal with Biden above $600 billion on a jobs package.
  • He said there would be “zero” Republican support for Biden’s $4 trillion pair of spending packages.
  • Biden has proposed two packages with trillions in spending on physical and social infrastructure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday drew a red line for an infrastructure-and-jobs plan at $600 billion, less than a fifth of the $4 trillion spending plans that President Joe Biden has unveiled.

“We’re open to doing a roughly $600 billion package which deals with what all of us agree is infrastructure and to talk about how to pay for that in any way other than reopening the 2017 tax-reform bill,” he said at a press conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Senate’s top Republican flatly rejected going above $600 billion. “If it’s going to be about infrastructure, let’s make it about infrastructure,” he said.

“I don’t think there will be any Republican support – none, zero – for the $4.1 trillion grab bag, which has infrastructure in it, but a whole lot of other stuff,” McConnell said.

He also ruled out adjusting President Donald Trump’s tax law, a measure Biden wants to roll back to pay for his plans.

“We’re not going to revisit the 2017 tax bill,” McConnell said. “We’re happy to look for traditional infrastructure pay-fors, which means the users participate.”

McConnell’s comments underscore the wide bridge dividing Republicans and Democrats on their economic priorities. Their ability to cut a deal will depend on whether they can agree on methods to finance a package and on its overall scope. Democrats have called for aggressive spending to expand the social safety net, while Republicans have insisted on narrowing a plan to upgrading physical parts of the economy like highways.

Biden has rolled out a $4 trillion pair of economic plans to shore up physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges, manufacturing, and broadband. His $1.8 trillion plan, unveiled Wednesday, would establish paid family and medical leave, universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, and monthly cash payments for parents.

Biden has proposed lifting the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% to cover part of the spending, a step that has strong backing among Democrats. It also garnered approval from most voters in a recent poll.

The president said it would be key to even the playing field between the richest Americans and everyone else.

“I don’t want to punish anybody, but everybody should chip in,” he said on Monday in Virginia. “Everybody should be paying something along the road here. The choice is about who the economy serves, and so I plan on giving tax breaks to the working-class folks and making everybody pay their fair share.”

He went on: “For folks at home, I’d like to ask the question: Do we want to give the wealthiest people another tax cut? Or do you want to give every high-school graduate the ability to earn a community-college degree on their way to good-paying jobs or on their way to four years of school in industries of the future, healthcare, IT, cybersecurity, you name it?”

A group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia unveiled a $568 billion infrastructure plan late last month. Much of that spending would be directed toward areas Republicans strongly favor, such as roads and bridges, ports, waterways, and expanded broadband.

Capito and Biden spoke on Thursday; in a tweet, she described it as a “constructive & substantive call.”

“We’re working with the White House, and I think it’s been very open-door. We’ve been very encouraged to keep moving forward, and that’s what we’re going to do,” she told Fox News on Sunday. Capito floated implementing user fees and repurposing unspent stimulus aid provided to state and local governments as a means of paying for the plan.