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Biden strikes deal on $1.2 trillion infrastructure package

Republicans, Democrats remain divided on how to pay for it

Portman says low-interest loans will help pay for latest proposal. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

President Joe Biden agreed on Thursday to a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that has support from 21 Republican and Democratic senators but has yet to pass scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

“We’ve struck a deal,” Biden tweeted on Thursday after meeting with a group of 10 senators at the White House. However, “there is plenty of work ahead to bring this home,” he told reporters after unveiling the plan at the White House.

“It’s going to require hard work and collaboration. The committee chairs [in Congress] and the ranking members are going to play a major part. There are going to be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to be forged along the way.”

The framework of the package, the crafting of which was led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, includes $579 billion in new spending on roads, bridges and other traditional infrastructure projects. However, “no one got everything they wanted in the package,” Sinema said Thursday in an interview with reporters. “We all gave some to get some.”

The agreement is a considerable step down from the $2.25 trillion, 10-year infrastructure package unveiled by Biden in March, which was bargained down to $1.7 trillion in May in an effort to negotiate with Senate Republicans who offered their own $568 billion, five-year package in April.

Agreement on getting the package paid for remains a significant hurdle, particularly for leadership on Capitol Hill. Biden originally called for raising taxes on corporations and on individuals making over $400,000 per year. Republicans have opposed raising corporate taxes, however, pushing instead for user fees such as a vehicle-miles-traveled tax and fees collected on electric vehicles, along with limited bipartisan support for raising the gas tax.

According to a fact sheet released by the White House, Biden’s latest proposal includes: 

  • $109 billion for roads, bridges, major projects
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
  • $16 billion for ports and waterways
  • $7.5 billion for electric-vehicle infrastructure

Portman revealed during an interview on Sunday that the latest proposal would include low-interest loans that get paid back through a revolving loan program administered by an infrastructure bank.

“It is a way to pay for it, not going further into deficit, but understanding these are long-term capital assets that we need to do,” Portman said. “By the way, we don’t get good marks on our infrastructure in this country, and we’re losing out to other countries in terms of competitiveness so it’s important to do it.”

Other proposed financing sources in the latest proposal, according to the fact sheet, include:

  • Reduce the IRS tax gap
  • Unemployment insurance program integrity
  • Repurpose unused relief funds from 2020 emergency relief legislation
  • Allow states to sell or purchase unused toll credits for infrastructure
  • Strategic petroleum reserve sales

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.