WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Republicans unveiled a new infrastructure offer on Thursday that would spend $928 billion over eight years to revitalize America’s roads, bridges and broadband systems, still well below President Joe Biden’s last proposal.
The plan, from a group of six Republicans led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, represents their counter-offer to a week-old $1.7 trillion here White House proposal that slashed more than $500 billion from Biden’s original $2.25 trillion plan in a bid to reach a bipartisan agreement.
“Senate Republicans continue to negotiate in good faith,” Capito told a news conference. “There is a real hunger for bipartisanship in the United States Senate.”
The Republican proposal includes $506 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, with another $98 billion allocated to public transit. Just $257 billion of the funds represented an increase over existing spending plans.
Republicans proposed paying for the plan with funds previously authorized for COVID-19 relief.
The White House did not immediately respond to the proposal, but at a news conference on Wednesday, an official had rejected the idea of repurposing already-authorized COVID-19 funding for infrastructure.
“We should also be clear that there are simply not hundreds of billions of dollars in COVID-relief funds available to repurpose,” said Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Biden has imposed an unofficial end-of-May deadline on the negotiations, and some Senate Democrats have been pushing to go it alone if Republicans do not reach an agreement soon.
The White House has expressed willingness to negotiate on some of the finer details but has said it wants a large package that expands the definition of infrastructure to include items such as free community college and paid family leave.
To pay for it, the administration has said it is open to any ideas as long as they don’t include asking Americans earning less than $400,000 to pick up the bill.
Republicans have said their offer matches parameters set by Biden at a White House meeting on May 13, when they said he mentioned a $1 trillion figure.
Republicans initially proposed a $568 billion here, five-year plan and increased the top line to around $800 billion over eight years when the two sides met on Capitol Hill on May 18, according to the lawmakers.
The proposal still leaves the two sides hundreds of billions of dollars apart, with no agreement on the scope of a package or how to pay for it.
Republicans want the package limited to roads, bridges, airports, waterways and broadband access. The group rejected the White House’s $1.7 trillion offer, saying it still contained social spending provisions and tax hikes on U.S. corporations that they have opposed.
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