May 27, 2021
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) joined U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), and John Barrasso (Wyo.) at a press conference to urge President Biden and Democrats to support Senate Republicans’ counteroffer on an infrastructure package, which focuses on core infrastructure investments like roads, bridges, ports, airports, and broadband. As Blunt noted, the proposal reflects President Biden’s feedback to the senators during a recent meeting at the White House.
Details of the proposal are available here.
Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:
“Well, Shelley, thanks to you and what, as everybody else has suggested, a great job, lots of time. Your staff came together, as all of our staffs did, to try to work out an offer here that 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 deciding you're going to come together and get something done. I think that can happen. I hope it does happen. We'll see how they respond.
“In terms of pay-fors, there are other things that we're willing to put on the table, and we will see if they are. You know, people who drive non-gas-powered vehicles should actually pay something to use the highway like everybody else does. And, no better time than right now to start that. We're prepared to look at lots of things. But, infrastructure has been seen as an obligation of—one of the obligations of the federal government for a long time. Particularly roads, bridges, highways, and canals were right among the first things that 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, frankly, the group of reporters assembled in this room, if you'd have been asked six months ago, 'write down your definition of infrastructure,' it would be the same definition that we're 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 of infrastructure, of course, or even a definition 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's also popular. It's popular with Republicans in the Congress. It's popular with the American people. I certainly don't blame the president for saying 'let's take a topic,' or his administration, 'let's take a topic that everybody is for—infrastructure—and let's just call everything infrastructure: the caring infrastructure, the manufacturing infrastructure.' I understand why you'd want to do that, but we're not going to get a bipartisan agreement that way.
“And, who knows? You know, they have to decide. Do 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'll try to get the rest of it some other way.' And we totally understand that. Matter of fact, we don't mind debating the things in the other bill and see if that's what the American people want to do. But let's not do it under the guise of infrastructure.
“So, from the very start, our guidelines were no changes in the 2017 tax bill. Every Republican in the Senate today that was here in 2017 voted for that bill. I think every Republican would argue that it had the economy headed dramatically in a good direction as we got into COVID. And the other guideline was let's do infrastructure in the way that infrastructure has been generally understood.
“I think one of the problems we've had in the Congress the last several years is we let too many things wrap themselves up in one big bill, whether it's the end of the Congress or some other time. We shouldn't let that happen here. It's not good legislation. It doesn't produce the best results. The people that we work for, for good reasons, don't have any idea of what we're passing when we pass that big bill at the end of every Congress that now has become way too much of the pattern. Let's not continue that with everything else we can think of.
“So, you know, the pay-fors can include lots of things that we're talking to them about. And, one of the major ones would be repurposing money that just didn't get used. As Senator Toomey mentioned, this money in the bill that passed this year—there's a lot of COVID-specific money in the other five bills that we just didn't need to spend for what we thought we'd need to spend it for. You know, we spent a year guessing. And, frankly, I think the Congress guessed pretty well. And probably the story of five bipartisan bills when we needed them hasn't been told as vividly as it should have been told. Some of the things we put in those bills worked really well, like the Paycheck Protection Plan. Some of them, like loans for companies that had more than 400 employees, worked barely at all. Many of the columns on how much we'd need for this and how much we'd need for that just simply didn't get used up. Better to use that money for something we all want to do then have it sit around there for somebody else's pet project at some time in the future.
“So, again, thanks to my colleagues. I think we've had good discussions with the administration. Hopefully, we'll find out today that those discussions were all in good faith and that they want to talk further about how we pay for the $900-plus billion package that we're offering. By the way, any of these numbers—$500 billion, $600 billion, $900 billion—any of these numbers would be the biggest infrastructure bill ever put on a president's desk by a Congress. Surely, we can figure out how that's a win, not a place to turn around and everybody go home.”