Senate Republicans released a $568 billion infrastructure framework on Thursday intended as a counteroffer to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal, a plan about a quarter of the size of the one Democrats are working on.
It’s also significantly more narrow, focused primarily on transportation infrastructure, along with some other items like broadband and water projects. And the plan the GOP released Thursday still is vague on one of the most important questions: how they propose to pay for the spending. It appears to lean heavily on unspecified user fees; "financing tools" and induced spending from the private sector; and unused money from prior Covid relief bills.
"Congress and the Biden administration must reach a bipartisan agreement that will improve the infrastructure in all states and communities, while achieving important national goals," the document says. "This framework is meant to serve as a guide as we continue to develop bipartisan bills that will move by regular order."
The details: The Republican plan is heavy on highway funding, allocating $299 billion for roads and bridges, or more than half of the overall figure. On the transportation side, it also includes $61 billion for transit, $20 billion for rail, $44 billion for airports, $7 billion for water ports and $13 billion for safety agencies including NHTSA, FMCSA and PHMSA.
Non-transportation line items include $65 billion for broadband, $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and $14 billion for water storage.
It also specifies that funds should flow through existing formula and discretionary programs.
Paying for it: The framework includes broad principles about how the bill should be paid for, but no specifics on what remains the hardest challenge and a major point of disagreement between the parties.
The framework says an infrastructure bill should be fully paid for and "shore up any infrastructure-related trust fund that is facing a revenue shortfall," including by ensuring that electric vehicles are contributing to highway revenue (although an EV fee alone would not be enough to make up Highway Trust Fund shortfalls).
The plan also calls for repurposing unused federal funding, which Senate Republicans have said exists because of a surplus of federal money from previous Covid relief bills.
Contrast: Biden’s proposed package, at $2.25 trillion, is roughly four times as expensive and would be paid for by an increase in the corporate tax rate.
It de-emphasizes funding for highways, instead redirecting federal dollars to a massive electric vehicle infrastructure effort, and includes funding for a broad range of items like health care which Republicans have argued fall outside the bounds of traditional infrastructure.
Many Senate Democrats have already declared the Republican proposal a non-starter.