After President Biden outlined his proposal for a massive $2.2 trillion spending bill on Wednesday, a bevy of Senate Republicans are speaking out against the plan in harsh terms.
The opposition is coming even from moderates who attempted to work with Biden on the coronavirus stimulus bill. This makes it even more likely that Democrats will be forced to invoke budget reconciliation yet again if they want to pass what Biden called “the largest American jobs investment since World War II.”
“I support improving America’s aging roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure. And we can do so in a bipartisan way,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Wednesday. But, he said, Biden’s plan is far too expensive and does not focus on infrastructure, as the White House is framing it.
“At its core, the president’s plan calls for a $620 billion investment in transportation infrastructure. However, the total soars to $3 trillion with its inclusion of these broad policy priorities that are a far cry away from what we’ve ever defined as infrastructure,” Portman said. “The Biden Administration’s plan redefines infrastructure to include hundreds of billions of dollars of spending on priorities like health care, workforce development, and research and development.”
Portman was one of the 10 Republicans who in February traveled to the White House to meet with Biden on a potential bipartisan coronavirus stimulus — only to be rebuffed as Democrats refused to compromise on any element of the bill. Another of those senators, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, also said Biden’s proposal is a nonstarter.
“While the president unveiled a partisan proposal that goes far beyond what constitutes as infrastructure, the Senate continues negotiations between members of both parties,” said Capito, the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
She added: “President Biden’s so-called ‘jobs’ proposal is a clear attempt to transform the economy by advancing progressive priorities in an unprecedented way. The proposal would aggressively drive down the use of traditional energy resources and eliminate good-paying jobs in West Virginia and across the country. Perhaps worst of all, it would burden the American economy with tax increases as our country attempts to recover from economic hardship.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also vocally opposed Biden’s plan, raising concerns about continued huge spending bills as the U.S. emerges from a pandemic on which its already spent vast sums of money.
“I am concerned in the level of our national debt. We’ve reached a critical point here. And I hope we’re not beginning to engage in a habit of any time we want to do something, call it a national emergency and run up the national debt,” McConnell said in Kentucky. “Twenty-seven trillion dollars. The same size as our economy. For the first time since World War II.”
In a separate statement, the minority leader also accused Biden of selling an “infrastructure” bill which is actually a “Trojan horse” for other priorities.
“This plan is not about rebuilding America’s backbone. Less than 6% of this massive proposal goes to roads and bridges,” McConnell said. “It would spend more money just on electric cars than on America’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined.”
Indeed, the White House summary of the American Jobs Plan says it will spend “$115 billion to modernize the bridges, highways, roads, and main streets that are in most critical need of repair” out of the total $2.2 trillion in the plan.
McConnell added: “It contains sweeping far-left priorities like attacking blue-collar Americans’ Right to Work protections, a huge favor to Big Labor bosses. Every time that far-left dogma clashes with the interests of American families, today’s Democrats pick the dogma.”
The White House, meanwhile, is framing its proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, as an investment in a very broad definition of infrastructure that will modernize the U.S.’s economy and uplift those who are struggling the most. “It’s time to build our economy from the bottom-up and the middle-out, not the top-down,” Biden said in remarks unveiling the plan in Pittsburgh Wednesday. “And this time when we rebuild the middle class, we’re going to bring everybody along regardless of your background, your color, your religion, where everybody gets to come along.”
The White House’s spending breakdown of its plan, it says, includes $620 billion for roads, bridges and ports; $400 billion for elderly home care; $580 billion on job training, R&D and clean energy; and $650 billion on the electric grid, broadband and water systems.
In the $620 billion for roads bridges and ports, the White House lumps in $174 billion for electric vehicles — more than it is spending on any other individual item in that category.