Watch: RINOs Turn on Conservatives – Promise to Back Biden

Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Senator Rob Portman said the 11 Republican senators are “absolutely committed” to working on an infrastructure deal.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let’s dive deeper into this bipartisan, potential bipartisan agreement. Joining me now is Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. He’s been a lead negotiator in these bipartisan infrastructure talks. Senator Portman, welcome back to Meet the Press. So, I’ve got to ask first this before I get you to respond to Senator Sanders. Given what we heard from Senator Tester on Friday about the gas tax, I’ve got to ask you: are all 21 of you still on board this deal if you haven’t agreed to how you are going to pay for it?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Yes, and in fact, we do have pay-fors. I was interested in hearing from my colleague Senator Sanders. He said at one point, with regard to the $6 trillion package, the list goes on and on. And that’s the problem; I mean, it’s not about infrastructure. It’s kind of a $6 trillion grab bag of progressive priorities. Ours is about core infrastructure, and it is paid for. And so, it is paid for without raising taxes, which is key. And I do think we have agreement on that, and I do think there’s some very creative ways to pay for infrastructure that wouldn’t be available for other expenses. As an example, the infrastructure bank, which is a bipartisan proposal that says, “Let’s use the power of the federal government to borrow at lower rates to be able to leverage private sector funding as well as state and local funding.” But also, we’re repurposing Covid funding, Chuck, and over $100 billion in the proposal is repurposing in three ways funding that has not yet been spent with regard to the Covid-19 packages that have gone out, including the latest $350 billion package to state and local government. They would like to spend some of that on infrastructure. My state of Ohio certainly would, and we would permit them to do that, and that helps pay for the package. So, there’s some creative ways to pay for infrastructure.

CHUCK TODD:

So the gas tax is out?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Well, the administration has said that is out for them. We don’t have a gas tax per se. It is going forward, indexing the gas tax to inflation. It’s been the same since 1993. So the group does support that, but we understand that the administration has very strong views on that, so it’s a — it’s a user fee. We also think that the user fee on electric vehicles is appropriate. Shouldn’t electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles pay their fair share in terms of our infrastructure needs, roads, and bridges? So, I think there’s some discussion left on those topics.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, is that code for it may end up not being in the final package?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Well, it may not, but the administration, therefore, will need to come forward with some other ideas without raising taxes. What we don’t want to do is hurt the economy right now, as we’re coming out of this pandemic by raising taxes on working families. And that’s frankly what’s done in the, in the $6 trillion package. It’s the largest tax increase in American history, in addition to this huge spendings. So it’s, you know, it’s important that we have pay-fors, but we don’t want to raise taxes.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me ask you this, and this is, you know, why shouldn’t either Jeff Bezos, the individual, or Amazon, the corporation, be contributing more to our infrastructure?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

Well, they should be paying taxes. And that’s actually part of our proposal too. We have about a $63 billion pay-for that is hoping to close the tax gap that assumes about a $40 billion investment in the IRS, including, by the way, in better taxpayer service, which is really important right now. But also enforcement, and let’s be sure that we’re closing that tax gap. We don’t want to do it in a way that’s too intrusive in the lives of Americans who run small businesses. But I think that’s a good sweet spot, kind of a compromise. The administration talked about a $700 billion fund there. That really is not appropriate, in our view. But there’s a bipartisan agreement on helping to close that tax gap.

CHUCK TODD:

I am curious though; it does seem as if all the pay-fors, you know, there’s this big list. And yes, you called it creative ways. You know, the average person looks at it and says, “Eh, this is accounting maneuvers. This is only going to increase the deficit,” and it seems like there seems to be comfort, that okay, let the deficit go up if it’s for infrastructure. Is that where your head is — is that where this is going to end up being?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

No, no, absolutely not. I, I, I would disagree there Chuck, I, I think when you look at infrastructure, you have to think about what it is — it’s long-term investments. As an example, we’ve got a bridge over the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, where I am, that has been in need of repair for a couple decades now. It’s about a $3 billion project. It’s going to take a long time to do it, probably five to 10 years, and it’s about a 50-year project, we hope. In other words, these hard, hard assets will last for, for many, many years, so you finance that differently, just as you would in your business or your family. So, this is supporting long-term investments to increase our productivity as a country, to increase our competitiveness. All the economics of this work well for our long-term economic growth, and that’s what this is about. So it’s, it’s something that can be paid for differently. It has been traditionally. Traditionally, we have allowed the federal government to provide relatively low-interest loans that get paid back, and that’s what we have in the proposal, the so-called infrastructure bank, which is a revolving loan program. Much is being done right now, with regard to things like water infrastructure or the grid, of course, the ratepayers themselves, we’ll pay that back. So it is, it is a way to pay for it, not going further to the deficit, but understanding that these are long-term capital assets that we need to do to. By the way, we don’t get good marks on our infrastructure in this country, and we’re losing to other countries in terms of our competitiveness, so it’s important to do it.

CHUCK TODD:

“There are many Democratic activists whispering in the administration’s ear. You think you have 11 Republicans, and the deal dies, or this is being dragged back. How committed is this group of 11 Republicans to sticking by this bill even if Mitch McConnell says he can’t vote for it?”

SEN. ROB PORTMAN:

“I think we’re absolutely committed to it. I think there’s a number of others as well on both sides of the aisle. Last week I heard from a lot of my colleagues saying I just need to look at one other issue, can you do this, do that. There’s a lot of interest in having a bipartisan proposal. Chuck, this is growing the vote from the middle out. Unfortunately, that’s where we are right now in Congress. It’s more likely we’ll have success in doing that. You recall at the end of last year; we did the same thing with regard to a COVID-19 package which helped to get that final package done at the end of the year after really almost a year of no activity on something that was really necessary. This is the same thing. Everybody wants to do infrastructure. President Trump had a $2 trillion package he was proposing. President Biden proposed one in his campaign. By the way, this helps President Biden keep that pledge of having an infrastructure package, but also to keep his pledge of doing things cross the aisle and getting something done.”

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