- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 23, 2021

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, said Sunday that Democrats and Republicans aren’t all that close to striking a deal on a major infrastructure package after the White House presented GOP negotiators with a counter-offer late last week.

“I think we’re still pretty far apart,” Ms. Collins said on ABC’s “This Week.” “But this is the test — this will determine whether or not we can work together in a bipartisan way on an important issue.”

She said there are still disagreements on the meaning of “infrastructure” and that Republicans don’t want to use the White House’s more expansive definition, which goes well beyond roads and bridges to shoehorn in spending on social programs like elderly care.

Ms. Collins said a significant part of the White House’s counteroffer on Friday simply shifted some of Mr. Biden’s proposed spending into legislation already moving on Capitol Hill.

She said the overall price tag of the Biden agenda is still an issue for many in the GOP.

“Remember, we spent $4.1 trillion — inflation-adjusted dollars — to win World War II,” Ms. Collins said. “That’s the size of the president’s infrastructure and social services package.”

The president’s team presented GOP negotiators with a $1.7 trillion infrastructure counter-offer on Friday, down from Mr. Biden’s original price tag of $2.3 trillion.

In addition to the infrastructure package, Mr. Biden has rolled out a $1.8 trillion “families” plan that includes additional spending on paid leave, free community college, and child care programs.

The president wants to increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund his economic agenda.

Republicans say touching the 2017 tax law, which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and slashed individual income tax rates across the board, is a red line for them in the talks.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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