Hopes for GOP infrastructure deal spurred on by Senator Shelley Moore Capito
WASHINGTON – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, of West Virginia, assumes her role as potential negotiator in Republican talks with the White House, leading a GOP effort to reach agreement on improved roads, bridges and high-speed internet from the country.
Ms Capito, who met with President Biden and a small group of Republican senators in the White House on Thursday, is now working to flesh out the details of her party’s initial $ 568 billion proposal, a step that could lead to negotiations more substantial in the face of legislative skepticism about the possibility of an agreement.
“It feels like we are moving, and we are moving forward,” Ms. Capito said in an interview after the White House meeting. Despite coming from a state where nearly 69% of voters backed President Trump last November, Capito said most of her constituents are encouraging her to strike a deal with Democrats that could benefit the country. deterioration of bridges, rural broadband and other state needs.
“They don’t want to see a fight every time they turn to something important in their life that we are tasked with trying to resolve,” she said.
Ms Capito, a longtime lawmaker behind the scenes, is seen by her colleagues as well placed to start the talks. She is close to the other senator from her state, Joe Manchin, a Democrat who has indicated he wants Republican support for any infrastructure bill and has delayed party priorities in the past.
The two sides are far apart on what should be included in a package, as well as how to pay for it. The White House has said it is ready to move forward with its own plan if no bipartisan deal can be reached, underscoring the long chances of a deal.
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Mr Biden proposed a $ 2.3 trillion plan in March that also includes funding for electric vehicles and home medical care for the elderly, paid for through corporate taxes. Ms Capito and other Republicans want to limit the plan to more traditional infrastructure, paid for with unspecified user fees. Many Democrats have said the Republican offer falls short of what they would support.
“This is far from what we need to do,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Who Caucuses With Democrats, of the initial offer of Mrs. Capito.
Democrats pointed out that the GOP’s $ 568 billion proposal includes an extension of current spending levels in the highways bill, unlike the Democratic proposal, which means that the starting numbers for both sides are more. distant than they seem. “Do I think the Republicans are here?” Asked Mr. Sanders. “No I do not have.”
Mr Biden proposed paying for the infrastructure with an increase in corporate taxes. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) Said repealing the 2017 tax law was a red line Republicans would not cross.
Ms Capito said she agreed the 2017 tax cuts should not be repealed, adding that Mr McConnell was not dictating her every move.
“He’s not riding on me or anyone else in the group to do something one way or another,” she said.
The White House has its own red line, incurring no new taxes or user fees, such as mileage or gasoline taxes, for anyone earning less than $ 400,000 a year. White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated this position on Friday, saying “the user fees that have been proposed there would violate that.”
House of Commons Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) Described closing the gap between taxes owed and taxes paid through stricter tax enforcement as a way to generate income that could garner bipartisan support. So far, discussions have focused on spending, not taxation.
“Nobody wants to talk about it because it’s not the fun part,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), a close ally of Mr. McConnell, of paying for the plan. “We have to tackle it,” he added.
The Senate is split 50-50, which means Democrats must walk a fine line with their own members, including Mr Manchin. Republicans have said Ms. Capito’s leverage will increase if Democrats determine they don’t have enough support in their own ranks to pass Mr. Biden’s more radical package.
Earlier this year, Democrats passed a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package without GOP support using a budget-linked process that allows legislation to pass through the Senate by simple majority, rather than the 60 votes required by most bills.
“Shelley comes to this after a plan has already been determined,” said Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, one of the Republicans working with Ms. Capito on the infrastructure proposal. “My point is that if they determine they don’t have Democratic votes, Republicans will have an important role to play.”
Although Ms. Capito has a largely conservative voting record on Capitol Hill, she has worked with members across the aisle. Ms. Capito, the main Republican of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and its chairman, Senator Tom Carper (D., Del.), Drafted a water infrastructure bill which was passed by an overwhelming majority by the Senate 89-2 at the end of April. The committee is working on a reauthorization of the highway bill that could eventually serve as the basis for a larger infrastructure bill if an agreement is reached.
Senators see his friendship with Mr. Manchin as a key advantage. The two Senators drove from Washington to West Virginia together on the occasion. They toured the state with country musician Brad Paisley, originally from West Virginia, in 2016 as the state recovered from flooding.
“I know he is interested in a bipartisan deal – he has expressed it,” Ms Capito said of Mr Manchin. “We speak frequently. We are good friends. “
When Ms Capito was first elected to the Senate in 2014, Mr Manchin refused to campaign against her, according to a person familiar with the matter. He made – and won – a bet with then-Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada that Ms Capito would win.
“I welcome Senator Capito’s efforts to reach a bipartisan compromise,” Manchin said in a statement Friday. “The bill she introduced is a good place to start.”
—Andrew Duehren contributed to this article.
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