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April 26, 2021 11:00 AM, EDT

Lindsey Graham Floats $900 Billion in Infrastructure Spending

Lindsey Graham speaks with Chris Wallace of Fox NewsSen. Lindsey Graham (right) is interviews by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. (Fox News)

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Republicans may be ready to back as much as $900 billion in infrastructure spending, according to a senior senator, though that would still be less than half of President Joe Biden’s proposal.

“There’s a deal to be done on infrastructure, I think,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Rather than an increase in the corporate tax rate to 28% that Republicans flatly reject, he suggested “to not pay for some of the infrastructure spending, because I think it over time pays for itself.”

Democrats and Republicans are laying down markers while sounding out bipartisan approaches to Biden’s $2.25 trillion plan before it’s taken up by Congress. The administration needs every Democratic vote in a Senate split 50-50.

The president plans to address Congress on April 28, a speech likely to focus on a second, longer-term economic recovery plan that goes beyond projects regarded as quintessential “infrastructure” to expanding social safety-net programs.

Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who’s a key moderate in the bargaining, said last week that Biden and Congress should focus on traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, an approach broadly favored by Republicans.

“There’s probably an $800 to $900 billion infrastructure bill that we could all agree on,” Graham said. “Watch Joe Manchin. I think there’s a sweet spot on infrastructure where we can find pay-fors that won’t hurt the economy.”

Manchin’s support will be critical for Biden. He’s suggested a two-track approach that deals first with physical infrastructure, including transportation systems, water projects and communications networks.

Elements involving what’s been dubbed “human infrastructure,” such as funding for child care and education, should be split off, Manchin said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I do think they should be separated,” he said.

Manchin said he and others in a group of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats who tried to broker a deal on the previous stimulus bill — passed with only Democratic votes — are now discussing an infrastructure proposal. Along with the coalition of House moderates known as the Problem Solvers Caucus, they’re seeking a bipartisan way forward.

An ABC News-Washington Post poll released April 25 showed such an approach would have broad support among the American people. By a 2-to-1 margin, respondents said Biden should be willing to make “major changes” to his proposal to win GOP support, rather than going it alone.

A group of senior Senate Republicans last week gave few specifics on how to pay for the spending beyond possibly taxing electric cars and repurposing unspent funds. They rejected rolling back former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts or adding to the national debt.

The House group has suggested measures such as raising the fuel tax to help pay for roads and bridges, an annual registration fee on fully electric or hybrid-electric cars, or broadening the air-cargo tax to trucking services.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican involved in the negotiations, said there have been “encouraging signs” from the White House.

“We are circling back on [April 26] to figure out the best strategies,” she said on CNN. “This is an active conversation. And I think that it’s a good beginning.”

— With assistance from Esha Dey and Chris Strohm.

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