April 16, 2021 4:30 PM, EDT

Sen. Roy Blunt Sees Path to Scaled-Down Infrastructure Deal

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt

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A senior Republican senator said fees for airports and other infrastructure, along with levies for highways, could be used to fund a bipartisan investment package, amid GOP opposition to the corporate tax hikes proposed by President Joe Biden.

Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 4 GOP leader in the Senate, also said April 16 he could see the potential for a $600 billion to $700 billion scaled-down, bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The White House said Biden will meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers April 19 as outreach continues on his $2.25 trillion infrastructure-and-tax plan. That would be Biden’s second straight Monday session with bipartisan legislators. Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, whose support would be essential in the event of any Democrat-only bill, has demanded the administration pursue Republican support.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has targeted passage of Biden’s plan in her chamber by July 4. Biden is expected to unveil another, social program-focused initiative in coming weeks. The president will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, right before his 100th day in office, in which he’s likely to again tout his push for a ramp-up in long-term federal spending.

Blunt said “there’s an easy path” to a deal if the package doesn’t stray from traditional items like roads and bridges and if Biden and Senate Democrats set aside their drive to include far more extensive goals embraced only in their party. And he said during a Washington Post Live event that there are ways to agree on paying for a plan that is about one-third what Biden wants.

Blunt said he’s talking to Senate Democrats and the administration about his recommendation that an infrastructure package be funded with a combination of ideas that include bolstering the Highway Trust Fund, which is now based on a fuel tax, and levying higher fees related to airports, ports and railroads. He said public-private partnerships also could provide an added source of financing for projects.

Blunt said he doesn’t think that a single GOP senator will back Biden’s plan, given its reliance on increases in corporate taxes.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced the April 19 meeting plans at a briefing April 16, without specifying which members of Congress will be in the meeting. The group will discuss “historic investments in the American Jobs Plan,” she said.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), an ally of the president, said April 15 he was speaking with GOP counterparts about breaking the Biden package into two bills, and passing a bipartisan one first.

Coons said, “That could end up being an $800 billion to $1 trillion bipartisan bill.”

Even so, Republicans haven’t presented a specific counterproposal, and comments from senators suggested differing views on whether one will be forthcoming. GOP members have also refrained from suggesting how a smaller spending plan could be paid for, while emphasizing that it should be funded.

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