So Republicans are working on their counterproposal to Biden's American Jobs Plan, which will fall somewhere between $600 and $800 billion and will contain the things they would support to pass through regular order. They reject the very popular corporate tax hike in Biden's plan and instead want to pay for the bill by—get this—punishing people who drive electric vehicles and by taking away any of the unspent state and local assistance they hated in the coronavirus relief bill to spend here.
They want to tax people who are trying to save the environment by driving electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles like gas-powered cars for the wear and tear on highways. Biden has ruled out a gas tax hike in part because it is regressive, disproportionately hitting low-income and rural people who don't have access to public transportation and have to drive. That's sure going to go over well with businesses like Amazon, which is building an electric fleet and which has endorsed the proposed corporate tax hike in Biden's plan. Republicans once again are completely missing the mark on this.
There are 10 Republicans, led by West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito, on the effort. They say their proposal could come as early as the end of this week. Capito claims that "lines of communications are open" between Republican senators and they will likely "settle on a conceptual sort of idea" for their proposal this week. She's also endorsing the plan that Thune rejected last month: bipartisan cooperation on the stuff they can agree on and leaving the rest for Democrats to do by reconciliation.
"I'm already engaged with Senator Carper on the water bill and also on the highway bill so you know these engagements are not just—they've been ongoing, in some areas," Capito said, referencing the water infrastructure bill under consideration in the Environment and Public Works Committee, with Chair Tom Carper. "So hopefully we can use our committee process to work through that and do it the old fashioned way. Give and take," Capito said. Good luck with that. A $287 billion, five-year highway bill like she’s talking about passed unanimously out of committee in 2019, but died afterward because Republicans couldn't come up with a way to pay for it. Finding consensus among Republicans on a way to pay for this could be the largest obstacle to getting even the GOP behind this effort.
They are, however, paying lip service to getting Democratic support. Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker told reporters Tuesday that he wants a bill at $600 billion or less, but acknowledged: "If we want bipartisanship, it's on us to make a good faith effort." Less than $600 billion as a "good faith" counter to Biden's $2 trillion. Right.
Democrat Chris Coons, a close ally of Biden and a constant problem with his blue dog tendencies, is playing along. "Out of the whole, more than $2 trillion worth of things proposed in the jobs and infrastructure plan, that means we would take, let's say $800 billion of it out, move that is a bipartisan bill, partly paid for with fees. And then several weeks later passed by reconciliation, a Democrat-only bill that would do the rest of that agenda," Coons told reporters. Never mind getting the fee-based stuff passed by Democrats and in the House. And never mind Republicans like Wicker low-balling the package.
And never mind that Republicans, spearheaded by Lindsey Graham, are already plotting how they won't let Democrats pass anything by reconciliation. For now, though, Coons and his magical bipartisan unicorns aren't the story.
The story is that Republicans have a glimmer of an idea that they've been losing. Sure, Mitch McConnell might bluster on the floor, declaring, "It won't build back better. It'll build back never." But the thing Republican leadership said they absolutely wouldn't do last month, they're doing now. When the whole thing crumbles because 10 Republicans can't agree among themselves, much less get any of the remaining 40 on board, Democrats like Coons and Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are going to get the clue. It's time to cut them out, and time to end the filibuster.