The Republicans’ $568 billion counteroffer to President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan is a “very sincere” plan that provides money to address true core infrastructure needs across the country that the American people want lawmakers to handle, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who has helped lead the effort as the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Friday.
“I think we need to look at defining infrastructure, which is critically important in terms of putting forward a viable offer,” the West Virginia Republican said on Fox News’ “America Reports.” “The physical infrastructure, what I keep coming to as the core infrastructure of our country, these are issues that we have worked together (on) time and time again across the aisle. I think it is a great offer to the president.”
Biden’s infrastructure plan includes not only traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges but seeks to alter the course of the U.S. economy by addressing climate change and expanding human services such as care of the elderly. The Republican plan, however, calls for funding simply for the traditional projects.
“We have gotten good feedback from the White House,” Capito said. She admitted that “not everybody is on board” but insisted there is still room to negotiate.
“This is what you do,” the senator said. “You negotiate. You work to see where your areas of emphasis are. Good physical core infrastructure is what the American people want us to do and they want us to work together. I think we can get there.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Biden has said from the beginning that he would welcome any “good faith effort to find common ground,” as the “only unacceptable step would be inaction.”
Capito said it remains to be determined how much more Republicans will want to approve, but she does think if Biden took his plan and pulled out the areas of physical core infrastructure that the GOP lawmakers find critically important and match them “apples to apples,” he’d find that the two sides are not as far apart as they seem.
“We are far apart, but not nearly $2 trillion,” she said. “This is where we start. I think it is incumbent upon us to get our ideas out in front of the American people and in front of the president and into our committees, where he should really be doing this work.”
Republicans would be “heavily criticized, and rightly so,” if they did not have a plan on infrastructure, Capito added.
“This is a process,” she said. “I think we’ve got a good start to the process. We are not sure where this is going to go, but hopefully, we are going to be talking back and forth. That is the plan.”
Meanwhile, Capito said Americans would do well to pay attention next week to learn if bipartisanship work can happen.
“One of the core functions I think in infrastructure is the clean water and wastewater portion of that. $35 billion,” Capito said. “We have already worked that out. Sen. (Tom) Carper is the chair of EPW and I am a ranking member. We got a 20-0 vote.”
The negotiations, she added, will be done the old-fashioned way, through amendments and work to determine if a 60-vote threshold can be reached to get the bill moved out of the Senate.
“For those who have dissed the plan, I think it is too often in Washington that people don’t even see what you are talking about,” she said. “They just naturally assume it is nothing that they would like. I think that is where a lot of the reaction comes from. That bothers me.”
She also said that even though there has been talk about Democrats pushing bills through the Senate by the process of reconciliation, the fact is they and Biden can’t do everything that way.
“That is why I think that this is critical that we, as Republicans, make our mark on this physical infrastructure package,” said Capito. “If they want to do home health aid and expand Medicaid and raise your taxes and all of the things that the president wants to do, if they want to do that with a 50 vote threshold in reconciliation, I can’t stop that. I am not sure there are 50 Democrats on board for that either.”
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