Sen. Capito: ‘Big Gap’ Still Remains After GOP Infrastructure Counteroffer

Sen. Capito: 'Big Gap' Still Remains After GOP Infrastructure Counteroffer (CNBC/"Squwak Box")

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Thursday, 27 May 2021 11:08 AM

The White House and Senate Republicans are "inching closer" to an agreement on infrastructure with the GOP announcing a $928 billion counteroffer but a "big gap" still remains, according to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who is leading the Republicans' efforts.

"The White House is still bringing their human infrastructure into this package and that’s just a nonstarter for us," the West Virginia Republican said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" shortly before her party's latest offer was unveiled Thursday.

"I think where we’re really falling short is we can’t seem to get the White House to agree on a definition or a scope of infrastructure that matches where we think it is, and that’s physical, core infrastructure, Capito added.

The White House has cut more than $50 billion from President Joe Biden's initial $2.25 trillion plan, bringing the price tag down to $1.7 trillion. However. The new GOP plan calls for $928 billion and would include money for the nation's roads, bridges, and broadband, but once again refuses money for items in Biden's plan that expands infrastructure to include paid family leave, free community college, and other non-traditional items.

Capito said Thursday the sides are still talking and she's optimistic, but there is still a "big gap" between the parties.

She also pointed out that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where she is her party's ranking member, unanimously passed the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act Wednesday.

"This is really the anchor of this infrastructure package," said Capito of the $303 billion measure. "I think that shows the momentum for a bipartisan agreement, so you know, we're still talking."

There have been some reports that Biden has told Republicans that $1 trillion is his bottom line, and Capito confirmed that, and also that he "also mentioned that an 8-year window for spending would suit his needs as well."

"He said 'yes, include the baseline spending,' which means the spending that's appropriated every year," said Capito. "He understood that we're not going to touch the 2017 tax cuts. Now, I'm not saying he agreed with that, but he understood our position there and that we didn't consider human infrastructure as physical infrastructure. We're going to meet all the metrics that the president himself laid out for us for us and we'll get close to his number."

Capito said she also thinks that a bill that would raise corporate taxes is "completely off the table."

"The tax cuts of 2017 led to a roaring economy that we saw pre-pandemic," said Capito. "We can do this without touching those tax cuts and we can do it by repurposing COVID dollars. If we look at the states that are now no longer taking the enhanced unemployment, there's a resource right there for us. We're looking at a financing mechanism like a revolving fund for infrastructure that you would put some dollars in and get a much greater private investment."

Meanwhile, Biden is expected to propose a $6 trillion budget Friday, which would take the United States to the highest sustained levels of federal spending since World War II, and Capito said that with Biden, "it just seems like the trillions keep on coming."

"There has already been a trillion-dollar rescue plan, and the president wants to spend trillions of dollars on infrastructure in nontraditional ways," she said.

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