Republicans tell Buttigieg that Biden’s infrastructure bill should focus on roads, rail, ports

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WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans are pushing again towards the Biden administration’s formidable infrastructure proposal, warning that any plan that strays from core transportation priorities to at least one that tackles local weather change and social justice will not get GOP help.

“I don’t think the bill can grow into a multi-trillion-dollar catch-all,” Missouri Rep. Sam Graves, the highest Republican on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee mentioned Thursday. “A transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal. It needs to be about roads and bridges.”

Graves spoke throughout a listening to the place Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg laid out broad priorities for – however few particulars of – President Joe Biden’s wide-ranging $3 trillion infrastructure bill designed not solely to restore bridges and modernize railways but additionally to drive the transition to a clear power financial system.

“In the United States, transportation is the leading contributor to climate change, contributing to a pattern of extreme weather events, which takes a severe toll on our infrastructure,” Buttigieg instructed the committee. “Every dollar we spend rebuilding from a climate-driven disaster is a dollar we could have spent building a more competitive, modern, and resilient transportation system that produces significantly lower emissions.”

Pete Buttigieg was confirmed as Transportation Secretary Tuesday as the primary overtly homosexual Cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate. Seen right here, Pete Buttigieg takes half in a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee affirmation listening to on Capitol Hill, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington.

Biden is predicted to unveil the preliminary items of his financial agenda subsequent week in Pittsburgh the place White House press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned he’ll ship a speech “laying out more details of his plan to build the economy back better.”

Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda – a slogan Biden coined on the marketing campaign path – contains a number of parts, based on Psaki: Upgrades to getting older infrastructure comparable to roads, bridges, rail and cyber gear; a tax code overhaul that advantages employees; a lift for caregivers; elevated entry to well being care; and clear power investments.

More: More than 45,000 bridges rated in poor situation, however President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan could hit snag

The prospect of a bill to rebuild highways, restore crumbling bridges and modernize the nation’s rail programs is seen by each events as a chance for a bipartisan second in a Congress wracked by political acrimony. But even that could also be troublesome.

Republicans nonetheless fume about the way in which they really feel Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid bill, often known as the American Rescue Plan, was jammed by means of the Democratic-controlled Congress and not using a single GOP vote.

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., instructed Buttigieg infrastructure should not be dealt with in the identical method.

“I just came back from a motorcycle ride – my first of the season – and I can reaffirm for you the obvious that our roads and bridges in this country suck. They need a lot of work,” Katko mentioned. “And we can’t do it in a partisan manner because its too big an issue for us.”

More: Biden placing closing touches on potential $3 trillion financial, infrastructure package deal as Buttigieg heads to the Hill

Republicans have little urge for food for a bill that might add to a nationwide debt already above $28 trillion. And any tax or price will increase Biden or Democrats may suggest to assist pay for the prices are seemingly useless on arrival in a Senate that will want at the least 10 Republicans to beat a legislative hurdle often known as the filibuster.

Asked throughout Thursday’s listening to about how the bill could be financed, Buttigieg mentioned it might rely on a mixture of sources together with consumer charges (comparable to fuel taxes), revenues from different taxes that comes by means of the overall price range, or borrowing.

“The bulk of any proposal will amount to whatever Congress is prepared to authorize (on) any combination of those sources,” he mentioned.

It’s not simply House Republicans who’re proof against Biden’s proposal.

GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, mentioned he is cautious of one other mammoth bill that may very well be a automobile to advertise a liberal agenda, together with free group school, common pre-kindergarten and paid household depart.

“We’re listening to the following few months may carry a so-called ‘infrastructure’ proposal that may very well be a Trojan horse for large tax hikes and different job-killing left-wing insurance policies,” he said on the Senate floor Monday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she wants “a robust bipartisan bill” but won’t take out provisions addressing social justice or climate aspects for the sake of placating Republicans.

“We can’t settle only for what we will agree on with out recognizing that this must be a bill for the longer term, that we’ve to acknowledge the local weather disaster and what we will do,” she told reporters on a press call.

The country’s total infrastructure needs over the decade are approaching $6 trillion or about $2.6 trillion more than what the public and private sectors are projected to spend, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

If not addressed, ASCE projects the “overdue infrastructure bill” will cost each American household approximately $3,300 per year in lost productivity and higher prices for goods and services.

More: Coronavirus cuts transportation funding, puts major road and bridge projects on hold

In addition, the Texas Transportation Institute, which studies commute times, says the extra 54 hours spent idling in traffic costs each commuter $1,080 on average in wasted time and fuel.

One idea gaining traction is changing the way motorists are charged to use roads, bridges and tunnels.

The current system relies primarily on the gas tax where drivers pay for the fuel they use. But with the increase of fuel-efficient electric vehicles and Biden’s push to wean the country off fossil fuels, Democrats and Republicans are warming to the idea of charging based on a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) system that charges based on how far people go.

Buttigieg said that’s an idea under consideration but said concerns about privacy and technology have yet to be resolved.

“We’ve received somewhat work to do,” he instructed the committee.

Contributing: Joey Garrison

This article initially appeared on USA TODAY: Biden infrastructure plan should focus on roads, rail, Republicans say

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