McConnell says $800B infrastructure package would be acceptable

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested on Sunday that he would support an infrastructure package that costs as much as $800 billion, a price tag that's higher than the existing counteroffer from his fellow GOP lawmakers. 

During an interview with Kentucky Educational Television that aired Sunday, McConnell reiterated his opposition to the $2.3 trillion tax and spending proposal put forward by President Biden earlier this year. That measure, known as the American Jobs Plan, includes billions in new funding for traditional infrastructure needs such as roads, bridges, transit systems and broadband, but also allocates money to issues such as long-term care for the elderly and disabled. 

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McConnell said any package should focus solely on "traditional" infrastructure, including roads, ports, bridges, water lines and broadband. 

"The proper price tag for what most of us think of as infrastructure is about 6 to $800 billion," he said, adding: "What we've got here is what can best be described as a bait and switch." 

McConnell's comments precede a set of White House meetings this week – Wednesday with congressional leaders and Thursday with key Republicans – as Biden seeks to find a middle ground with GOP lawmakers on his sweeping infrastructure plan. 

A group of moderate Senate Republicans introduced a scaled-back $568 billion proposal last month, an opening salvo in the long-shot bid to compromise on infrastructure. The five-year plan from Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Roger Wicker, Pat Toomey and John Barrasso focused on roads, bridges and other traditional forms of infrastructure. 

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The roadmap laid out by Republicans would set aside:

  • $299 billion for roads and bridges
  • $61 billion for public transit systems
  • $20 billion for rails, including Amtrak
  • $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater
  • $13 billion for safety, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  • $17 billion for ports and inland waterways
  • $44 billion for airports
  • $65 billion for broadband
  • $14 billion for water storage

Republicans have criticized the size and scope of Biden's spending measure, arguing that it contains too many provisions that are unrelated to traditional forms of infrastructure. They have also pushed back against his proposal to pay for the measure by raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and imposing a higher global minimum rate on U.S. companies' foreign earnings. 

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McConnell said Senate Republicans would oppose any measure that rolls back parts of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and suggested an infrastructure bill could be paid for by raising the gas tax.

"The way to pay for infrastructure is through the gas tax that already exists, and the gap between that and what we're willing to spend here needs to be credibly paid for, and the best way to pay for infrastructure is with the people who use it," McConnell said.

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