Senate Democrats expressed skepticism Thursday toward the Republican infrastructure counter-offer, a $928 billion spending plan that would draw the majority of its funding from unspent COVID-19 relief and other forms of non-new spending, arguing that the GOP proposal was not nearly enough to meet the demands of the moment.
The GOP proposal was likely to meet opposition from Democrats — who have gone so far as to refer to “care economy” spending as infrastructure — precisely because it rebuked attempts to redefine the word beyond what Americans have long considered to be infrastructure.
But criticism from a number of Senate Democrats suggests that some of them believe the Republican counter-offer isn’t even worthy of consideration.
“I don’t really think this is a serious counter-offer,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who raised concerns about how the plan would be paid for and about the lack of “green infrastructure” in the proposal.
“This is our chance to expand our idea of what infrastructure means,” she added later.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who in March endorsed ending the filibuster if the GOP “stand in the way of progress,” said negotiations were going too slowly, and were making it seem as if Republicans were engaging reasonably, reports POLITICO. “They haven’t been yet,” he added.
“I fully understand the president’s instinctive desire for a bipartisan solution and that would be the best of all worlds but it takes two to tango,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), reports POLITICO. “And so far they really refuse to come to the dance floor.”
Republican lawmakers argued Thursday that the proposal specifically targets infrastructure, and does so without creating unnecessary levels of new spending at a time when spending has reached exorbitant levels.
“We want to focus on actual infrastructure,” said Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), one of the Republicans who helped craft the counter-offer. “The platforms and services that move people and goods and services through our economy, that’s what people understand to be infrastructure, and we can reach an agreement if we focus on those items.”
President Biden told reporters earlier Thursday that he had not yet reviewed the Republican proposal. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki thanked the senators for the counter-offer — even expressing approval for parts of it — but suggested that it was still well-short of receiving a final stamp of approval from the Biden administration.
Specifically, Psaki said the proposal lacks new spending for fixing “veterans’ hospitals, building modern rail systems, repairing our transit systems, removing dangerous lead pipes, and powering America’s leadership in a job-creating clean energy economy.”
“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,” Psaki said in the statement.
According to Roll Call, Biden said Thursday that he plans to meet with Republican lawmakers next week to discuss the infrastructure counter-offer. It’s unclear who will attend the meeting, but Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) has been spearheading the GOP counter-proposal negotiations along with three other Republican senators.
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