WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Republicans unveiled a $928 billion counteroffer Thursday in the ongoing negotiations with the White House to solidify a deal on an infrastructure bill.
There still remains a significantly large gap between that offer and the $1.7 trillion proposal put forth by President Joe Biden last week. That proposal was down from the $2.3 trillion initially offered by the president.
Biden had also urged the Republicans to put up at least $1 trillion into their infrastructure package, a threshold they didn’t quite meet.
The GOP’s counteroffer does boost its spending by $91 billion for roads and bridges, $48 billion for water infrastructure, $25 billion for airports, and $65 billion for broadband. In the GOP’s plan, the $928 billion would be spent over eight years.
“This counteroffer delivers on much of what President Biden provided in his feedback to us during our Oval Office meeting while still focusing on core infrastructure investments,” said the republicans in a statement obtained by Forbes reporter Andrew Solender.
The GOP’s offer is up from the party’s initial $568 plan, but the two sides still face significant challenges in reaching a deal, like agreeing on how to pay for the massive spending.
Democrats have said they want to increase taxes on corporations and those with high incomes, while Republicans favor covering a vast majority of the spending by repurposing funds, like unused money meant for COVID-19 relief.
The GOP’s plan also doesn’t include some of Biden’s priorities, like measures that aim to combat climate change, funding for childcare and early childhood education, and billions of dollars for home health care, as well as for upgrades to housing and schools.
“Senate Republicans continue to negotiate in good faith,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told reporters while introducing the proposal Thursday. “We’ve had a lot of good dialogue with the White House. We’re trying to get to that common goal of reaching a bipartisan infrastructure agreement that we talked about in the Oval Office with the president several weeks ago and I talked with him even previous to that. We believe that this counteroffer delivers on what President Biden told us in the Oval Office that day.”
In response to the GOP’s new proposal, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a statement, saying the administration appreciates the substantial increase in funding and that they’re in talks with Sen. Capito about additional details.
Psaki said the White House is still concerned that the GOP plan still doesn’t provide substantial new funds for “critical job-creating needs,” like fixing veterans’ hospitals, building modern rail systems, repairing transit systems, removing lead pipes, and investments in clean energy.
“Lastly, we are concerned that the proposal on how to pay for the plan remains unclear: we are worried that major cuts in COVID relief funds could imperil pending aid to small businesses, restaurants and rural hospitals using this money to get back on their feet after the crush of the pandemic,” wrote Psaki.
As for the path forward, Psaki says Biden called Capito to thank her for the proposal and to tell her that he would follow up after getting additional details.
“We are also continuing to explore other proposals that we hope will emerge. Though there are no votes in Congress next week, we will work actively with members of the House and Senate next week, so that there is a clear direction on how to advance much-needed jobs legislation when Congress resumes legislative business during the week of June 7,” said Psaki.
As for other Democrats, some have already expressed that they believe the GOP proposal is too low. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren told MSNBC that she doesn’t think the GOP’s proposal is a serious counteroffer.
"It's not real. They have this illusory notion of how we're going to take money that's already been committed to other places," Warren told the network in an interview.