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Senate Republicans unveil latest counteroffer to Biden on infrastructure spending

(WASHINGTON) — A group of Senate Republicans on Thursday announced a $928 billion counteroffer to President Joe Biden’s plan on infrastructure spending, the latest attempt to make progress toward a bipartisan compromise just days before the president’s informal Memorial Day deadline.

The package includes $506 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, $98 billion for public transit, $46 billion for freight rail, and funding for ports, airports, water storage, broadband and infrastructure financing.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who is leading the group of GOP senators working on the counteroffer, announced their proposal on Capitol Hill Thursday morning and cast the Republican proposal as “a serious effort to try to reach a bipartisan agreement.”

She said their counteroffer delivers on what Biden asked for: It reaches near $1 trillion over an eight-year period and includes their baseline spending.

“We have achieved that goal with this counteroffer, but we’ve also, I think, done something that has stayed true to what our beliefs are, when we very first started this endeavor and that is sticking to the core, physical infrastructure,” Capito said.

Republicans have argued Biden’s plan includes spending outside physical infrastructure like roads and bridges to include long-term care facilities, for instance.

“We have stayed within the boundaries of our original plan. I think that’s what the American people think of when they think of infrastructure and that’s certainly what we do too,” she said.

“We believe that the alternative, which is a partisan reconciliation process, would be destructive to our future bipartisan attempts, but also doesn’t serve the American public,” she added.

Infrastructure talks stalled Friday after Republicans flatly rejected a $1.7 trillion offer from the White House, a pared-down version of Biden’s American Jobs Plan, initially valued at $2.2 trillion. Republicans opposed the overall price of the White House package, but also rejected the proposed White House funding mechanism.

Negotiators have sparred for weeks over how to fund the massive package, with Republicans refusing tax hikes on corporations, which they say as a referendum on the 2017 tax bill, and Democrats refusing to consider using user fees, such as tolls or a gas tax, to pay for the package.

The new Republican offer proposes that unused funds already approved by Congress — for example, those allocated in the multiple COVID-19 relief packages — be repurposed for infrastructure.

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