US Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) praises the Senate Democrats’ legislative achievements as he holds a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington on March 25, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Swimming pool | Reuters
Senate Democrats plan to continue drafting a massive infrastructure package next month – regardless of whether Republicans get on board – as they try to pass a bill this summer.
Senators will leave Washington for Memorial Day next week. When lawmakers return, Democrats will try to write an infrastructure plan that will touch everything from transportation to broadband, utilities and vocational training.
“While the president continues to discuss infrastructure legislation with Senate Republicans, the committees will hold hearings and continue their work on the Build Back Better agenda – with or without the support of Republican senators,” Senate leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., wrote in a Friday. letter to the Democrats. “We need to pass comprehensive job and infrastructure legislation this summer.”
President Joe Biden has been working with Senate Republicans to see if they can strike a two-pronged deal to revamp America’s infrastructure. After the last back-and-forth in their talks, the parties seem to be far from agreeing on what should be put in a bill and how the government should pay for it.
As the White House and Republicans struggle to reach consensus, some Democrats have called on their party to try to pass a bill without GOP backing. Democrats can do this through the budget reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority of votes in the equally divided Senate.
Republicans on Thursday sent Biden a counter-offer for $ 928 billion infrastructure. It came in at about half of the $ 1.7 trillion proposal that the White House last sent to the GOP. The Biden government first came up with a $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.
In response to the offer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki praised “constructive” additions to road, bridge and rail spending. She said the White House is “still concerned” about the Republicans’ proposed spending on modernizing railroads and the clean energy transition, along with the party’s calls to pay for infrastructure with previously approved funds for coronavirus relief.
The White House has said it expects almost all of the aid money to be spent. Diverting the funds could jeopardize support for small businesses and hospitals, Psaki said.
Despite the persistent differences, the parties expect to continue discussions. Biden could meet again next week with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the West Virginia Republican who is leading negotiations with the White House.
The parties will have to work through two major disagreements to reach a deal. First, they have different views on what counts as infrastructure.
The White House wants to include programs such as caring for elderly and disabled Americans, which it considers vital to get Americans back to work and boost the economy. Republicans want to limit the legislation to transportation, broadband, and water, among others.
Biden and Republicans may also struggle to find a compromise on how to pay for the infrastructure plan. The president wants to raise the corporate tax rate to at least 25% – and crack down on corporate tax avoidance abroad and underpaying individual taxes at home – to offset the expenses.
The GOP has said it will not support changes to the 2017 tax cuts as part of an infrastructure law. The party lowered the corporate rate from 35% to 21%.
It is unclear how much longer talks will take if Democrats and Republicans cannot strike a deal. On Thursday, Capito said the Republicans “will continue to negotiate in good faith.”
In his letter, Schumer noted that he had been “encouraged” by the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which this week is advancing a two-tier land transportation bill of about $ 300 billion.
Senate leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky who previously said he would be committed to fighting Biden’s broader economic agenda, said on Thursday that his party would remain in talks with the president.
“We would like to get a conclusion on a significant infrastructure package,” he told The Washington City Times.
Democrats approved Biden’s first major bill, a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus plan, in March, without a Republican vote.
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