House moderates unveil $1.25T infrastructure plan

Roll Call

June 9, 2021 2:52 pm

A bipartisan group of House moderates on Wednesday unveiled an eight-year, $1.25 trillion infrastructure plan designed to help break the months-long impasse over President Biden’s top domestic legislative priority.

The framework offered by the 58-member Problem Solvers Caucus calls for more than $959 billion for traditional infrastructure, including highways, bridges, rail, airports and waterways; $25 billion of that money would be set aside for electric vehicle infrastructure, including electric buses.

The plan also calls for $74 billion for drinking water and wastewater systems; $71 billion for the electric grid and clean-energy programs; $45 billion for broadband; and $10 billion for veterans’ housing.

In the coming days, the group — 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans — will offer proposals for how to pay for the package but it is not backing tax increases that Biden and progressives want, sources said. About $762 billion of the package represents new spending. 

“It’s critically important that we get a robust infrastructure package signed into law, and that we do it with strong bipartisan support,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said in a statement. “This is the model for how we should govern in Washington: Democrats and Republicans working together to find common ground.”

“The time is now for Congress and the Administration to reach across the aisle, unite, and boost investments in our surface transportation network that will move our transportation systems into the 21st century,” added Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the other co-chair. “Infrastructure investment can and will deliver real benefits to every American and additionally, has the unique power to unite us as a nation.”

The impact of the Problem Solvers plan remains to be seen. The group had played a major role in breaking the partisan impasse that had stalled a huge coronavirus relief package in December, leading to the adoption of $900 billion in new COVID-19 spending. 

The focus of the current infrastructure debate, however, has been in the Senate, where President Biden has sought Republican buy-in for at least a significant part of the $2.25 trillion public works plan he proposed earlier in the year. 

Those talks have been stymied by partisan disagreements over the size, scope and offset provisions Biden is seeking, including a proposal to cover much of the new spending by raising taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals — a non-starter for Senate Republicans. 

Biden this week ended talks with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), senior Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and shifted his focus to working with a bipartisan group of 20 senators working on their own plan. That group includes Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.); and Republican Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Bill Cassidy (La.). 

Problem Solvers leaders have been working with the new Senate group, which also appears ready to reject Biden’s call to roll back the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts to help pay for the package.

“Bottom line, this is probably the hardest part from my perspective, is how you get it paid for,” moderate Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), another member of the group, told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday.

The new framework arrived the same day the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, headed by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), began a marathon markup of a $547 million package to fund infrastructure projects over the next five years. 

That proposal, focused largely on surface transportation projects, is one Democrats are hoping will ultimately be incorporated into whatever package emerges from the talks between Biden and the Senate. 

Complicating the debate for the White House, liberal Democrats have already run out of patience with the GOP negotiators, contending that Republicans are merely trying to drag out the talks to keep other Democratic priorities from being considered. The progressives are pressing Biden to abandon the bipartisan talks in favor of a massive infrastructure bill, which could avoid a Senate filibuster if Democrats tap a procedure known as reconciliation. 

“In case it wasn’t clear already, it certainly is now: Republicans are not going to do what needs to be done for working families,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Progressive Caucus, said Tuesday