Senator Capito says Republicans plan new U.S. infrastructure offer By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Shelley Capito (R-WV) looks on during a news conference to introduce the Republican infrastructure plan, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Erin Scott

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Republicans will unveil a new counteroffer to President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion infrastructure proposal on Thursday, in an 11th-hour bid to reach a bipartisan agreement as an unofficial deadline looms.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who is leading a six-member Republican negotiating team, told reporters on Tuesday the group could seek a new meeting with Biden to try to achieve a breakthrough in efforts to revitalize America’s roads, bridges and other facilities.

“We are anxious to have a bipartisan agreement,” said Capito, top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“I think that we’ve got good momentum, but we’ll see what their reaction is,” she added.

It was not clear what the updated Republican package would contain. The group initially proposed a $568 billion, five-year framework and some lawmakers have talked about updating that to match the Biden plan’s eight-year horizon. Such a change could increase the size to around $1 trillion.

“The president will not be surprised at the more outlined and specific offer that he’s going to receive and it will absolutely be in line with parameters that he suggested in those areas,” Senator Roger Wicker, top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, told reporters without elaborating.

Republicans have been disappointed by recent talks with administration officials including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

“Maybe that’s a strategy — that we’ll talk with the president again, if he would want to,” Capito said.

The sides appear to be far apart and struggling to agree on a basic definition of infrastructure. If talks stall, Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress could decide to move forward without Republicans at the end of the month.

Biden’s sweeping proposal includes traditional infrastructure projects on roads and bridges but also seeks to rechart the direction of the U.S. economy with an additional focus on fighting climate change and boosting social programs.

Republicans want an approach limited to roads, bridges, airports, waterways and broadband access.

“We were pretty clear on where we define infrastructure and I think the American people are behind us on this,” Capito said.

Republicans rejected a White House move last week that pared down Biden’s proposal to $1.7 trillion from an original $2.25 trillion. They expressed disappointment that the offer still contained social spending provisions and tax hikes on U.S. corporations that they have rejected.

Other members of the Republican infrastructure team include Senators John Barrasso, Mike Crapo, Roy Blunt and Pat Toomey.

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