tv Senate GOP Offer Infrastructure Counterproposal CSPAN May 27, 2021 8:00pm-8:25pm EDT
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is everybody here? okay. hang on just a second, guys. well, good morning, and i want to thank everybody for being here. i would like to thank my colleagues, senator blunt. senator wicker wasn't able to join but they are here in spirit. i am sorry they are not here. they have emboldened us to speak in their stead. senate republicans continue to negotiate in good faith. we have had a lot of good dialogue with the white house. we are trying to get to that common goal of reaching a bipartisan infrastructure agreement. we believe this counter offer delivers on what president biden told us in the oval office. and that is to try to reach somewhere near $1 trillion over an eight year period of time that would include our base
line spending. we have achieved that goal with this counter offer. we have done something i think has stayed true to what our beliefs are when we started this endeavor. and that is speaking to core physical infrastructure. what is the definition of infrastructure? we have stayed within the boundaries of our original plan. i think that is what the american people think of when they think of infrastructure. and that is certainly what we do, too. but there are a couple bits of news since the meeting with the president. we have passed a bipartisan water infrastructure passage for $35 billion with chairman carper. bipartisan. we got an 89-2 or 88-2 got a vote in the senate floor. that is one of the pieces we have agreement on in terms of infrastructure. yesterday, we passed a $316 trillion surface transportation bill. -- five-year surface
transportation bill. it has a lot of things the president wants in there, resiliency, roads and bridges. we have connecting communities in there. and we also have ev charging -- an ev charging infrastructure piece in there. that passed out of our committee 20-0. we are working on the floor right now as you all know on in endless frontier. -- on endless frontier. it came out of a congress committee, bipartisan. that was part of what the president originally asked us to look at as infrastructure. we don't consider that physical infrastructure, but we do think it is part of the package the president should be able to distinguish as part of his infrastructure. so, what we are looking at today is a $928 billion package over five years. -- over eight years. it sticks to the core infrastructure features we
talked about initially. it is an effort to reach a bipartisan agreement. the president said to me and us in february that he was agnostic as to whether we pass a bunch of small bills or large bill. -- or one large bill. we have heard him say inaction is not an option. we have passed two of the smallers. it is a major anchor to this piece of legislation. i think that shows there is a hunger for bipartisanship. there is a real ability to achieve that. and we are hoping this moves the ball forward. we believe that the alternative, which is a partisan reconciliation process, would be destructive to our future bipartisan attempts. but also, doesn't serve the american public and would not get us to an infrastructure package, such as the one we believe would serve the american interests, but also constrains
spending to areas of core physical infrastructure. that is so important to this country. our infrastructure has been the envy of the world. we want to take that place again. i personally think we still have a, we just -- have it, we just want to make it better. with that, i am going to turn it over to senator toomey. senator toomey: thank you for your leadership. it has been a lot of hard work and we are grateful. a couple of quick points, one of them is the consistency with which we have communicated how we think about this to president biden and his team. and that includes this group of senators. it includes leader mcconnell. and that consistency i am alluding to is the fact we want to focus on actual infrastructure. right? the platforms and services that move people and goods and services. that's what people understand to be infrastructure. and we can reach an agreement, if we focus on those items.
the second thing we have been very, very clear on, every single time we have had a discussion, is that we are not raising taxes. we believe the 2017 tax reform contributed significantly to enabling us to achieve the best economy of my lifetime. and that is no small thing. we are not interested in undoing the provisions of any tax reform that allowed us to get there. and then finally, we have also observed there is a true -- a tremendous amount of money that was approved in previous bills, six bills in the course of the year or so. -- six bills over the course of the last year or so. trillions of dollars. and many hundreds of billions have not even been spent yet. they clearly were not about covid, they were not about an economic recovery. if you dig about it this way, if -- if you think about it this way, if you look at the offer we are putting on the table today, with the $920 -- $928
billion figure, you look at the money already in the pipeline expected in the form of revenue for the highway trust fund, there is a gap that needs to be filled. $575 billion. take a look at this chart. the red bars represent the money from the american rescue plan that isn't even going to be spent by the end of this fiscal year. it is scheduled to be spent in future years. it is all different categories. it adds up to about $700 billion. and that is just one of the several bills we passed that have these sources of funds that have not been spent yet. we believe that repurposed thing -- that repurposing these funds needs to be a really important part of how we fill this gap. if the gap is $575 billion, and we know there are at least tens or probably hundreds of billions of dollars of unspent money from
previously passed bills, clearly the resources are there to do this. thanks very much. >> first, i want to thank shelley for your hard work. you talk about somebody with patience and persistence, doing it in a positive way, very, very grateful. this is a real offer of substance and significance. it is what people at home in wyoming think of as infrastructure. roads with potholes that need to be fixed. it is waterways, airports, ports that are clogged, flooding in different water systems. we think about bridges that are aging. and what we can do to help those. this is what president biden talked with us about in the white house. this proposal is fully paid for, it does not need any raises in taxes, and it avoids the big threat to the economy right now, which is inflation. inflation is the number one threat to the economy. -- to our nation right now and
the economy. is not just me saying that, it is larry summers, who had a long piece in the washington post talking about inflation that is coming, and coming faster and to a greater degree than he even thought. and it is because of all the additional spending going on. because of these additional trillions going into the economy. so when we talk about this $700 billion repurposed thing -- repurposing money, it is clearly money that should be spent in ways that has already been committed. not additional borrowing and spending. this is what we talked to the president about. what we are proposing today could pass in a bipartisan way. and the old nickname for joe biden is middle class joe. this has something he would normally be for. and this is something the middle class of america would say yeah, this makes sense to us.
on the other hand, you have the democrats demanding $6 trillion and now $7 trillion in spending for a whole lot of different things. they may override the president on this, overrule him. that is what my concerns are with nancy pelosi and chuck schumer. what is basically socialism camouflaged as infrastructure, which is the direction they are heading, with massive tax increases that are going to hurt the economy. massive spending. if that is the direction they want to go, they can try, they are not going to have even a single republican support. i would say to president biden, this will work. it will help the country, help us move forward. and we would very much recommend to you accepting this, moving ahead with it, endorsing it, and getting this done for the best interest of our nation. >> well, shelley, thanks to you
and what everybody else said, great job, your staff came together, as all of our staff did to try to work out an offer we think is well within the framework of the meeting we had with the president. i will say that the best meeting we had on this topic was with the president, who i think would like to see a bipartisan solution here, and who certainly understands the dynamics of now deciding you are going to come together and get some things done. i think that can happen. i hope it does happen. we will see how they respond. in terms of pay fors, there are other things we are willing to put in the table. we are prepared to look at lots of things. but infrastructure has been seen as an obligation, one of the obligations of the federal government.
for a long time. particularly roads, bridges, and highways and canals were the first thing is the early congresses started talking about and started doing. our view of infrastructure has been that if we would just look at any definition of infrastructure, that the group of reporters assembled in this room, if you had been asked six months ago, write down your definition of infrastructure, it would be the same definition we are pursuing right now. the connectedness above the ground and under the ground. airports, ports, roads, bridges, highways. all of those things are in our package, and a number of other things. broadband would not have met the early congressional definition. for even the definition of infrastructure -- or even the definition of infrastructure 40 years ago, but it fits well within the connectedness aspect of what americans would think
infrastructure should be. now, infrastructure is and has always been important. it is also popular. it is popular with republicans in the congress, it is popular with the american people. i don't blame the president for saying, let's take a topic that everybody is for, infrastructure, and let's call everything infrastructure. the caring infrastructure, the manufacturing infrastructure. understand why you would want to do that, but we are not going to get a bipartisan agreement that way. and, who knows? they have to decide. did they want to do something with 50 democrats and the vice president? or do they want to do a substantial part of that package in a bipartisan way? now, the president was very upfront in our meeting with him. you know, if we do divide this up, he said, i will try to get the rest of it some other way. and we totally understand that. as a matter fact, we don't mind
debating the things in the other bill, and see if that is with the -- what the american people want to do. but let's not do it under the guise of infrastructure. from the start, our guidelines were no changes in the 2017 tax bill. every republican here voted for that bill. dachshund the senate today that was here in 2017 -- every republican here that was in the senate today that was here in 2017 voted for that bill. every republican said it had the economy headed in a good direction. the other guideline was, let's do infrastructure in a way that infrastructure has been generally understood. i think one of the problems we have had in the congress the last several years is we let too many things wrap themselves up in one big bill, whether it is the end of congress or some other time. we should not let that happen. it is not good legislation. it does not produce the best results. the people that we work for, for
good reasons, don't have any idea what we are passing when we passed that big bill at the end of congress that has become way too much of the pattern. let's not continue that with everything else we can think of. so the pay fors can include lots of things that we are talking to them about. one of the major ones would be repurposing money that just did not get used. senator toomey mentioned this money in the bill that passed this year. there is a lot of covid specific money any other five bills he -- and the other -- in the other five bills he did not need to spend for what we thought we would need to spend it for. we spent about a year guessing. frankly, i think congress guest pretty well. -- guessed pretty well.
probably the story of five bipartisan bills has not been told as vividly as it should have been told. some things worked really well, like the paycheck protection plan. some things, like loans for companies, worked fairly at all. many of the columns about how much we did for this and that simply did not get used up. better to use that money for something we all want to do, thn have it sit around for a pet -- better to use that money for something we all want to do, than have it sit around for a pet project. thanks to my colleagues. we have had good discussions with the administration. hopefully we will find out today those discussions were all in good faith, and they want to talk further about how we pay for the 900 plus billion dollar package we are offering. any of these numbers, $500 billion, $600 billion, $900
billion would be the biggest infrastructure bill ever put on a president's desk by a congress. surely, we can figure out how that is a win. not a place to turn around and everybody go home. >> we have time for just a couple of questions. >> with the endless frontier money [indiscernible] >> no. yes. >> -- the white house yesterday rebutting this idea there is this -- [indiscernible] >> pat, you might want to talk about that. senator toomey: if the white house is saying that money has been spent, they need to show us that. omb needs to produce those numbers. we have not seen the numbers that suggest that. the cbo was adamant much of this money couldn't be spent. it just was not physically possible to get it out the door. we also think there is a lot of money from the previous five bills that has not been spent. so we do believe this money is
available. if they have a different theory, they need to show us the numbers. >> i would use as an example the 20 some states that will not take enhanced unemployment. -- 23 states that will not take enhanced unemployment. there may be some way they are calculating that. but certainly those dollars are not going to be spent. we know that because states have said it is time to get to work. it has been a deterrent in a lot of states for people to get back to work. >> i know you guys have laid out the $920 billion compromise -- $928 billion compromise. [indiscernible] -- with a $1.7 trillion from the white house. is that a gap that can be bridged? >> when you are looking at the $1.7 trillion from the white house, what are you looking at? you are looking at $400 billion for the carrying economy. you're looking at i believe $100
billion for ev vouchers. which we zero out. we don't think this is the place for that. you can get down pretty quick if you start looking at some of -- v.a. hospitals, schools. housing. some of those are big numbers in the president's initial proposal. and we don't agree that is physical infrastructure. so it is not a $1.7 trillion -- i have been trying to explain this and it is getting missed a little bit. i think the gaps are much less. but the important thing here is that the president's desire and our desire to do something together has traditionally been handled by the congress and the white house, working together on important issues that impact every single person. one more question. >> is it possible that doing a compromise bill depends on you guys agreeing on a definition of
what this is? it seems like that is still the big question. >> i would say that is probably the big question, is the scope. we haven't been satisfied, i don't think, with the way the white house has responded to our first initial ask, in narrowing the scope. -- on narrowing the scope. what they did was take out their r&d/manufacturing segment of about 500. but remember in that, the r&d portion is the endless frontier bill. >> can i ask a follow-up? the american rescue plan, that is congressional democrats and the white house's biggest accomplishment since they have come to office. what makes you think they would willing to take money out of their own pockets to do this instead? >> many of us think the biggest accomplishment of the republican congress was the tax reform.
-- in recent years was the tax reform of 2017. what makes them think we want to undo the tax reform that gave us the best economy of my lifetime? [laughter] look, we passed many trillions of dollars. as senator blunt pointed out, we did the best we could estimating what we thought we might need on a completely uncertain environment. turns out, in many categories, we needed much, much less than we thought. we don't think all of these categories actually -- many of them have nothing to do with covid or an economic recovery. we think this is an important source of funding. >> you are saying this is where that money comes from. the actual money that has been spent? or the $83 billion from pensions? >> this is meant to illustrate the fact there is a tremendous amount of money that is available to be repurposed. and we could have that. we'd about -- we would need
about $575 billion. there is probably hundreds of billions from previous bills. we can have conversations about which items would be repurposed for infrastructure. >> and the trump administration actually reported monthly, as those previous bills all required. -- are required. this bill does not have quite the same language in it. didn't pass like appropriators would pass, which says you have to be accountable to us all the time. those balances were pretty big in january. and there is no reason to believe they are being spent down, unless they are being spent down for other purposes than what they were appropriate it for. -- appropriated for. those bills had a tighter transfer of control than this bill does. they are repurposing money out of this bill right now for unaccompanied children. to the tune of like $2.3 billion. so the idea we would never want to repurposed money -- we will mention the secretary of the treasury from the obama-biden
administration says, if you don't want to fuel inflation but you do want to do a good thing like infrastructure, look for money you have already appropriated, but is not being spent or could be spent. for a better and more needed purpose. >> thank you, you all. >> [indistinct chatter] announcer: c-spanshop.org's c-span's online store. browse to see what is new. your purchase will support our operations. you still have time to order the congressional directory, with contact information from members of congress and the biden administration. shop now to get a 20% discount. announcer: p