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April 14, 2021 2:45 PM, EDT

Senators Working on Infrastructure Alternative

Utah Senator Mitt RomneyUtah Sen. Mitt Romney said the infrastructure plan should be paid for with an increased gas tax and other user fees. (Samuel Corum/Bloomberg News)

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Utah Republican Mitt Romney said April 14 a group of senators is in the “early stages” of discussing a potential counterproposal to President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure and spending plan that would be more narrowly focused and less expensive.

Another Republican, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, suggested there was possible bipartisan support for an infrastructure package of $600 billion to $800 billion.

Romney said a bipartisan group of senators is discussing a pared-down infrastructure proposal including roads, bridges, airports and broadband.

With Democrats criticizing Republicans for rejecting Biden’s plan without offering an alternative, some GOP lawmakers have indicated in recent days a desire to put a proposal together.

Romney said a call among 20 senators from both parties is planned for April 15, though it’s not clear yet whether a pared-down proposal would just be backed by Republican supporters or have bipartisan support.

He said he would like to include items such as roads, bridges, ports, airports and broadband, and said it should be paid for with user fees like a gas tax hike, vehicle miles traveled fee for electric cars, and airport fees.

“The pay-for ought to come from the people who are using it. If it’s an airport, the people who are flying. If it’s a port, the people who are shipping into the port,” he said. “If it’s highways, it ought to be gas if it’s a gasoline-powered vehicle. If it’s an electric vehicle some kind of mileage associated with that electric vehicle that would be similar to a gas tax.”

He suggested that the $800 billion figure for an infrastructure package floated earlier April 14 by Capito still may be too big, even though it would be about one third of what Biden is requesting.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito wants to forgo the rolling back of tax cuts on corporations. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg News)

Capito, the top GOP member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said she could see a bipartisan infrastructure package of $600 billion to $800 billion that forgoes the rolling back of tax cuts on corporations and other parts of the 2017 tax law that the Biden administration has proposed.

Capito said on CNBC April 13 that Democrats should set aside the bulk of Biden’s $2.25 trillion plan for now, arguing that they could move on other elements of the bigger proposal later on via a partisan budget reconciliation bill.

“If we’re going to do this together — which we want to do and is our desire — we’ve got to find those areas and take away the extra infrastructure areas that the president put into his bill like home-health aides and school building and all of these kinds of things,” Capito said.

The administration on April 14 continued its outreach to build support for Biden’s American Jobs Plan. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Biden counselor Steve Ricchetti were set to meet with members of a bipartisan group of House lawmakers to discuss how to accomplish the president’s objectives. The meeting with the Problem Solvers group follows Biden’s Oval Office confab with bipartisan legislators April 12.

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.

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