Republicans don’t want to overhaul the economy as Biden’s infrastructure plans draw strong public support

McConnell leadership
From left, Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Senate Republican Policy Committee Chair Roy Blunt of Missouri. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
  • Republicans are pushing to cut the size and scope of Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plan.
  • A new poll released Wednesday indicated the Biden plans are drawing 67% support among voters.
  • A bipartisan framework is likely to constrain its focus to physical infrastructure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Republicans are holding strong on their opposition to President Joe Biden’s proposed spending to aggressively combat climate change, along with social investments already on the table.

They have long resisted expanding the definition of infrastructure beyond physical items like roads, bridges, and highways. An emerging $1 trillion infrastructure framework that’s being drafted by a bipartisan Senate gang of 10 centrists is poised to restrain its focus to that portion of the economy.

“There are some principles that it adheres to that are constructive like the fact it is limited to true physical infrastructure – that’s good,” Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said in an interview. He added he was still undecided on the measure.

“Our members are interested in core infrastructure, hard infrastructure, but not all the social spending that accompanies their broader proposal,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a GOP leadership member, told reporters.

But there appears to be strong public support for expansive federal spending beyond those areas over a year into a pandemic that devastated the economy. A new poll from Monmouth University released Wednesday indicated that roughly two-thirds of the public backed Biden’s sweeping infrastructure plans.

-Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) June 16, 2021

Another recent poll from Morning Consult demonstrated that Biden’s infrastructure plans have a slight edge over the Republicans’ proposal – 52% compared to 48%, respectively.

Democrats are pushing for a much more expansive infrastructure spending that crosses into nearly every sector of the economy. Biden’s plan includes social initiatives like universal pre-K and tuition-free community college, along with cash payments to parents. The Monmouth poll indicated those provisions garnered 61% support.

The rival views on what makes up infrastructure and how to pay for it derailed an earlier set of talks between Biden and Senate Republicans. Still, negotiations are continuing among a Senate gang of 10, which includes Republicans like Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

“We’re still speaking to colleagues to see if they’re comfortable with it. And, if not, how do we get them there and if so, where do we go from here,” Cassidy said Wednesday.

Still, the proposal faces very long odds in the evenly divided chamber. At least three Senate Democrats have already rejected it as inadequate to combat climate change. Republican negotiators say it will include funding for electric-vehicle charging stations and climate resiliency to fortify the country’s ability to endure worsening storms and floods.