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GOP Took Weeks to Create an Infrastructure Plan That’s Mostly Baseline Spending

The GOP proposal for $257 billion in new spending falls far short of Joe Biden’s plan for $1.7 billion of the same.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend the Senate Rules and Administration Committee markup of the For the People Act in Russell Senate Office Building on May 11, 2021.

Senate Republicans have officially released their infrastructure proposal that they’ve been teasing for the past weeks — but it’s less than the $1 trillion they had pledged, and the amount of new spending is nowhere near that of the Democrats’ proposal.

The Republicans released their $928 billion counteroffer Thursday. But buried in the fine print is the fact that the vast majority of their plan is baseline spending; the new spending in their offer totals to only $257 billion, which falls far short of President Joe Biden’s proposal.

Biden’s proposal, by contrast, is entirely new spending on top of the baseline that advocates say is sorely needed for repairing and upgrading the country’s poorly-rated, crumbling infrastructure. The president had originally proposed a $2.25 trillion plan, but downgraded it to $1.7 trillion, to the chagrin of many Democrats and progressives.

Still, a $1.7 trillion investment is far larger than the paltry Republican offer, which is funded with leftover coronavirus spending. Even Biden’s roughly $600 billion cut to his original offer is more than two times larger than the Republicans’ entire new spending proposal.

The Republican plan is limited to funding what many Democrats have said is an antiquated definition of infrastructure, with more than half of the spending going toward roads and bridges and the rest going toward projects like water infrastructure and trains.

The counteroffer notably doesn’t include any of the critical climate investments that the White House has included in its plan. The GOP’s proposal also doesn’t have elder care provisions that Biden had proposed.

Democrats immediately dismissed the Republican’s plan.

“I don’t really think this is a serious counteroffer,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on MSNBC. “First of all, they don’t have pay-fors for this. 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 and other spending. Second part is I’m not hearing about the green infrastructure.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) said on CNN that the offer was a “non-starter.”

The fact that the GOP offer is this small after weeks of negotiations is proof to some Democrats that they should forge ahead with passing Biden’s plan without Republican support.

“This is not a serious counter-proposal,” wrote MSNBC’s Steve Benen. “When a group of lawmakers effectively declare that they’re not serious about reaching a compromise, perhaps it’s best to believe them.”

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has been insistent on continuing to negotiate with conservatives. White House officials have suggested that Biden is willing to give up on a previous Memorial Day deadline for talks on the bill, meaning that the talks could drag on ever longer.

Democrats and progressives have warned Biden against trying too hard for bipartisanship with Republicans. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said earlier this month that he doesn’t think that Democrats should prioritize reaching an agreement with the GOP on infrastructure. “The bottom line is the American people want results,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said earlier this month the GOP’s only goal on infrastructure is to stop Biden — so even if Biden cuts his plan further, it’s unclear if Democrats could ever get 10 Republicans in the Senate to vote for it.

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