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Sen. Capito: More bipartisanship needed on infrastructure, Biden ‘left us in the dust’

President Joe Biden has proposed a $2 trillion measure, The American Jobs Plan, to improve the country's infrastructure. As negotiations on that get underway in Washington, Judy Woodruff is joined by a senator who's deeply involved - ranking member of the Environment and Public Works committee, Republican Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, to discuss the package.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden has proposed a $2 trillion measure titled the American Jobs Plan to improve the country's infrastructure and take care of other needs.

    As negotiations on that get under way in Washington, I'm joined by a senator who's deeply involved, ranking member of the environment and public works committee, Republican Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

    Senator, thank you very much for joining us.

    First of all, you have said — it is the American Jobs Plan, and you have said that you're interested in the classic infrastructure part of it, the roads, the bridges. Does that mean you can pretty much accept the $115 billion that this bill would set aside for that?

  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito:

    I think probably.

    I think what I have been interested in looking at is where the job creation aspects of what we consider traditional infrastructure is. And that is roads and bridges, but it's also broadband now. It's also our wastewater and water — safe drinking water facilities.

    And so it's broader than just a roads and transportation — 115, I haven't looked at it specifically, but it's probably within the ballpark of where I could probably be supportive of that, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You mentioned increasing access to broadband, but what about the power grid?

  • Shelley Moore Capito:

    Well, I think, obviously, we saw over the storm we had, certainly what happened in Texas, that — and we know, in certain instances in California and other states, that we have grid problems, we're bleeding a lot of energy off the grid.

    I think modernization of the grid is something we could look at if we went a little broader in an infrastructure package. It's not something that I think of as a traditional — traditionally formulated every-five-year infrastructure package that we have done in the past bipartisan, but I think it certainly bears looking into, and I would keep an open mind there as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There's also money in here, Senator Capito, as you know, for retraining workers who are dislocated in manufacturing, in the energy sector, also money for home health care aides.

    Where do you stand on all that?

  • Shelley Moore Capito:

    This is where we begin to really separate, I think, in our visions of where infrastructure can and should be and where, I think, as a United States, under the unity pledges of the president, I think we're going to fall apart.

    When you look at work force development, we have numerous work force development programs. We have a lot that we funded in COVID. You know, let's deal with those where they should properly be dealt with, under labor and other appropriations. The same thing with home health care.

    Yes, I'm a great believer in home health care, but that's not part of what I consider traditional job-creating infrastructure packages, where we're modernizing, moving people, moving goods, and really modernizing our economy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Senator, I'm sure you're familiar, though, with President Biden's arguments around this. He said the nation has always, in his words, evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs.

    He said, we need to start seeing infrastructure through its effect on ordinary working people in America and what the future working needs are going to be of the American people. What about that?

  • Shelley Moore Capito:

    Well, that's why I think broadband is a part of infrastructure now.

    I think, if we look at what's happened during this pandemic, when we see so many people commuting to work, or children learning online, or delivery of telehealth, that, to me, makes the argument that I have been trying to make very vociferously over the last five years, that we have a great digital divide in this country, that, to me, is an infrastructure gap that needs to be closed.

    And so I think that we have some like identities on this. He talks about some high-speed rail projects. Those are things I think that's well worth looking into. But let's not go away from where we are able to really, I think, do the job creation, boost the economy, and get a lot of people back to work at the same time, and then have our modernization of our airports, our waterways, more broadband.

    These are the — where I think our core functions should be focused at the moment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    There was some reporting today in Politico that the group of senators who met with President Biden early on back in January — and you were one of them…

  • Shelley Moore Capito:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … have come away, frankly, feeling that you were burned, that he wasn't really serious about wanting to work with Republicans.

    Where do you think he stands right now?

  • Shelley Moore Capito:

    Well, I was in the meeting with the group of 10. And the president was very engaged in that meeting and very much pledging to, again, come together in an area that we have had great consensus on, which was COVID relief.

    But the next day, Leader Schumer is talking about reconciliation, which is a nonstarter for all of us Republicans mode for the most part. So we did feel, I wouldn't say burned, I think lessons learned here.

    So, I think you see a little bit of tiptoeing on our part in terms of, how aggressive is the White House actually going to negotiate? And I always thought, when you negotiate, you come from two different positions, and both people move. That didn't happen. We moved as a group of Republicans. The president never moved and basically left us in the dust.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me just finally ask you about how to pay for this, because, as you know, the president is saying, let's bring the corporate tax rate back up. President Trump lowered it from 35 to 21 percent.

    President Biden is saying, let's get it back up higher. Would you be willing to see any increase in the corporate rate? We know corporations earned something like $2 trillion over the last year.

  • Shelley Moore Capito:

    I voted for the Job — the Tax Cut and Jobs Act in 2017.

    And we got much of the desired results during those years before the pandemic. We had more people in West Virginia working, higher wages, more minorities, more women, younger people working. And so we were on a trajectory, I think, of really fully realizing the effects of those tax cuts.

    We had over a trillion dollars come back into this country that was repatriated because of the lowering of the corporate rate. So, I don't want to see us go back to raising taxes to where we're going to stagnate, possibly, the progress that we have made.

    But the big question is, how do you pay for it? We know the gas tax is a declining resource. So let's look at things like vehicle miles traveled or ways that electric vehicles would pay their fair share for the use of the roads.

    And so I think we're going to have to get creative here, and I think we can, but I don't want to see us raise taxes on small businesses. I think that's a nonstarter for most people.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you're ruling out any increase in the corporate?

  • Shelley Moore Capito:

    For me, yes.

    And I think this is another thing I think that, strategically, if this is the direction the president wants to go, put that in his reconciliation package, if he has the vote, and let that fly.

    I think that if we could just find a big and robust bipartisan effort here, which we can — I know we can, because we're working it through my committee right now — I think it'll give the American people the confidence that it's not broken there, they're on their way to working together like we know they can do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia.

    Senator, thank you very much.

  • Shelley Moore Capito:

    All right. Thank you, Judy.

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