June 12, 2021

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House Democrats announce infrastructure bill amid Biden negotiations – CBS News

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House Democrats unveiled their own infrastructure bill on Friday that would address parts of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, as negotiations between the president and Senate Republicans slow down.

The proposal announced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio would cost $547 billion over five years, encompassing the portions of Mr. Biden’s $1.7 infrastructure proposal that are covered by the committee. The legislation will be marked up by the committee next week.

The bill, called the INVEST in America Act, would dedicate $343 billion to roads, bridges and safety; $109 billion to public transit systems; and $95 billion to passenger and freight rail. DeFazio called the legislation a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to move our transportation planning out of the 1950s and toward our clean energy future.”

The legislation does not include any means to pay for it, since that is not part of the committee’s jurisdiction. The committees that write congressional funding measures, House Ways and Means and Senate Finance, have not yet proposed ways of funding the infrastructure bills.

Funding for an infrastructure package remains the biggest sticking point in negotiations. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a similar surface transportation bill unanimously last week, also unfunded. That bill would set a new baseline funding level at $303.5 billion for Transportation Department programs for highways, roads, and bridges.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden spoke again with GOP Senator Shelley Moore Capito on Friday about infrastructure, although the two did not reach an agreement. According to a readout by Capito’s office, the senator and the president “discussed the Republican infrastructure framework and the Biden administration’s proposal,” and agreed to talk again on Monday.

The two previously met at the White House on Wednesday, after a group of Republican senators led by Capito proposed a nearly $1 trillion counteroffer to Mr. Biden’s American Jobs Plan, with $257 billion in new spending.

Mr. Biden in his meeting with Capito emphasized portions of his plan that would be funded through corporate taxes, such as setting a 15% minimum tax on the nation’s most profitable companies. Republicans have previously balked at Mr. Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% — they have no interest in undoing the 2017 tax cut legislation signed by former President Trump — and it is unclear whether they will embrace setting a new minimum rate for certain big corporations.

“Unless you think corporations shouldn’t pay any tax at all — and we’ll leave that to others to speak to — then there should be a way to find a path to agreement,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday.

Psaki said that the negotiations could extend beyond Monday, contradicting Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who said earlier this week that the soft deadline for talks was June 7. 

“We’re not here to set new deadlines, we’re going to continue those conversations,” Psaki said.

But the new bill introduced by DeFazio indicates that Democrats may be willing to move forward without Republican support if necessary.

Senate Democrats are already laying the groundwork to pass the larger infrastructure package through Congress using budget reconciliation, a process that would allow the measure to pass without any Republican votes. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated last week that the Senate would move forward with infrastructure legislation in July, regardless of whether Republicans and Democrats are able to come to an agreement.

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