In considering the next federal infrastructure package, West Virginia’s U.S. senators are working to find a middle ground between a $2.3 trillion White House proposal and a $568 billion measure from Senate Republicans.
Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito each talked about their goals for the measure Thursday and Friday, with both of them saying they thought the $2.3 trillion measure was too pricey and they wanted other funding options beyond only raising the corporate income tax.
Capito, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, wants to avoid any tax increases altogether, saying she wants to rely on the federal Highway Trust Fund, which is supported by taxes on gasoline, as well as other similar fees on electric and hybrid vehicles as well as user fees based on miles traveled on federal roads.
“We’re working through this,” Capito said Thursday. “We’re far apart right now, but we’re all at the table. I talked to the White House as recently as this morning, and we’re very serious about reaching a compromise.”
Manchin, a Democrat who’s become a swing vote in the U.S. Senate, on Friday said he didn’t have an exact number in mind in terms of how much he thought the government should spend on infrastructure, but he said $2.3 trillion certainly was too much.
He called the Republicans’ $568 billion proposal a “good faith effort” and a “good start” to negotiating the bill.
Manchin is in support of increasing the corporate income tax from 21% to 25% to help fund the measure.
“I don’t put a number on it, whether $500 billion or $600 billion or whether it’s $1 trillion, but we have to pay for it,” Manchin said. “We cannot continue to add this type of crippling debt and pass it on to future generations.”
Manchin described Capito as taking the lead on the infrastructure bill. Capito said passing the bill is a process, and “I think we’ve got a good start to that process,” on April 15, when she and a group of Senate Republicans introduced the Republican response to Biden’s proposal.
Biden’s proposal includes repairs and construction for existing infrastructure — highways, bridges, railways and the like.
It also sends $400 billion to expand Medicaid support for caregivers, and it includes funding to support the construction of electric vehicle charging stations and address racial injustice of highways that were built in ways that devastated Black neighborhoods, according to an Associated Press report.
Biden’s proposal also focuses on utilizing cleaner energy sources to support the nation’s infrastructure, including expanding broadband access.
Biden’s plan is funded in large part by a proposed increase of the corporate income tax from 21% to 28%.
The GOP responding proposal has a bigger focus on traditional travel infrastructure.
The Republican plan would dedicate $299 billion to roads and bridges, $65 billion to broadband internet and $61 billion to transit. Another big-ticket item: $44 billion for airports. Missing from the plan is Biden’s focus on electric vehicle charging stations and caregiver support, according to the AP.
In addition to user fees, Capito said Thursday she wanted to allow local governments to utilize some of the funding they received from the American Rescue Plan, the latest COVID-19 relief package, to match federal funds to support road repairs and other similar infrastructure projects.
“Our cities, counties, and states are awash with money from the last [COVID-19 relief] package,” Capito said.
Manchin and Capito gave their interviews in the days following President Biden’s first address to Congress, when Biden used the speech capping off his first 100 days in office to call for unity in the country and among lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
Capito said the address left something to be desired, particularly in terms of addressing substance abuse issues.
Capito said she hoped Biden would practice the themes of his speech when he said he sought bipartisan effort to address issues.
Manchin said he thought Biden’s speech was good and that it was a call for federal lawmakers to put their ideas into the process, whether it’s through the committee process or amendments on their respective chamber’s floor.
“I thought it was a well-toned speech, well delivered speech,” Manchin said. “It hit on so many topics and so many issues. It basically had some confidence to it, some normality to it, and I think that’s what the American public wants.”