Photo from the White House Twitter feed.

Mississippi Senator will be key negotiator for Senate Republicans on infrastructure program.

Mississippi’s senior U.S. Senator is playing a pivotal role for Senate Republicans in attempting to negotiate with President Joe Biden and his Administration on the more than $2 trillion proposal aimed at tackling America’s infrastructure needs.  His efforts, however, seem geared at a more reasonable $600 billion price tag that addresses actual hard infrastructure needs.

Republicans and Democrats alike at all levels of government have sought to have a true infrastructure plan approved in Congress for decades, yet nothing has moved beyond conception.

Senator Roger Wicker, who is the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce Committee, met with President Biden and a bipartisan group in the Oval Office to discuss the Democrats’ plan for over 2 hours. Wicker told Y’all Politics on Wednesday that his goal is to reach a compromise with the Administration that is much smaller than what the President has promoted to date. Some of the provisions proposed by the President are nonstarters for Senate Republicans, yet Wicker says they are willing to find common ground on a bill.

“Republicans in the Senate are serious about getting a bipartisan compromise without adding to the deficit,” Wicker said, adding, “but the Biden proposal is going to have to be much smaller.”

Senator Wicker said the Biden American Jobs Plan is full of unrelated Democrat wish list items that he calls “ridiculous.”

“The President’s current plan to spend $2.3 trillion on infrastructure and a whole host of other unrelated items is ridiculous,” Wicker said. “And his proposal to reverse the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was a signature accomplishment of Trump administration, is the worst possible way to pay for infrastructure.”

Senator Wicker

Wicker does recognize the need to fund the necessary infrastructure repairs across the nation without further deficit appropriations that only add to the ever increasing national debt. As a former state lawmaker in Mississippi, the Senator well knows that could mean some sort of increase in user fees to accomplish that goal.

In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, host Jim Sciutto asked Senator Wicker if he was ruling out tax increases to pay for these infrastructure improvements as he is negotiating with the White House. Wicker told Sciutto that lawmakers had be to “grown-ups” and say how it is to be paid for, noting that when considering infrastructure financing user fees for those businesses and individuals who use the roads is a part of that discussion.

Y’all Politics sought clarification on that exchange from Senator Wicker.  Wicker elaborated further, noting the possibility of public-private partnerships to fund infrastructure expansion and mentioning the billions of dollars that remains unspent from the multiple trillion dollar COVID packages passed in 2020 and 2021.

“Republican legislators and governors in other states such as Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, and many others have all found different funding mechanisms to pay for infrastructure expansion, including public-private partnerships and other methods,” Wicker said. “We also can’t ignore that there are billions upon billions of dollars designated for infrastructure that remain unspent from the previous six COVID relief bills already signed into law.”

Part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan would increase the corporate income tax rate to 28% from its current level of 21%.  It was reduced in the 2017 Trump tax cuts from as high as 35%.

In an interview last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Wicker said what President Biden proposed initially is not the infrastructure plan America needs.

“What the President proposed this week is not an infrastructure bill. It’s a huge tax increase, for one thing. And it’s a tax increase on small businesses, on job creators in the United States of America,” Senator Wicker told host Chuck Todd, adding later in the discussion, ““If the president wants a bipartisan plan, how could he possibly try to get something passed that repeals a bill that every single Republican in the Senate voted for in 2017?”