President Trump’s plan for a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill to charge the economy before the election has hit some bumps in the road from Senate Republicans, a report on Wednesday said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed concerns about adding to the national debt that has grown because of the coronavirus pandemic and is leery about passing another financial stimulus plan.
Republican senators have warned that Trump’s plan is too “rich” and would require a “heavy lift” in Congress to bridge the policy differences with the House Democrats’ $500 billion transportation bill, The Hill reported.
The House Transportation Committee is scheduled to begin debate on the Democrats’ bill Wednesday.
McConnell’s priority, GOP senators said, is to push for a five-year reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund, which is estimated to cost $287 billion, far below Trump’s $1 trillion requested amount.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said his panel is still trying to figure out how to cover $93 billion in the reauthorization bill.
The Iowa Republican, when asked about Trump’s proposal, said whatever GOP senators come up with “could be a lot less.”
Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), both members of the finance committee, were skeptical about authorizing another large spending measure.
“I think that’s a very heavy lift,” Toomey said. Enzi, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the focus should still be on the coronavirus pandemic and noted that much of the $2 trillion CARES Act and the $484 billion interim coronavirus relief legislation still hasn’t been spent.
“For the last few days I’ve been talking about not paying for the national parks’ infrastructure. A trillion is a lot more than the $17 billion we’re talking about there,” he said, referring to the Great American Outdoors Act. “I’m much more inclined to stick to solving the virus problem,” he said.
Sen. John Cornyn questioned why the Trump administration put a price tag on the infrastructure proposal before debating what’s in it.
“You don’t start with the price tag. You start with what it is you want to accomplish and figure out what that is. Seems to me to be the opposite way to approach this by starting it with how much money you’re willing to spend,” Cornyn (R-Texas) said.
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, balked at the cost, saying a “trillion dollars may be a little rich.” But he also said there are parts that he likes.
“I think there are areas where we can do something. Rural broadband is very popular among many of my colleagues,” Portman said. According to a report on Tuesday, the Department of Transportation is spearheading Trump’s plan that would spend funds on 5G wireless infrastructure and rural broadband, as well as traditional roads and bridges.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she’d be open to considering an infrastructure plan, and blamed a lack of communication between the Senate and the House for its lackluster welcome.
“The question is, ‘What does it look like? Where do we put it? Is it something within the next [COVID-19] relief? Is it a stand-alone?” she said.
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