Daines: GOP shut out on infrastructure discussion

HELENA (KPAX) — U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said this week his fellow Republicans want to support an infrastructure bill, but that President Biden’s proposal goes far beyond just infrastructure – and that Democratic leaders are indicating they don’t want GOP input.

“What we’re hearing, and so far what they’re saying, is it’s going to be either take this or you leave it,” he said Wednesday. “So, it looks like, again, this is more of a liberal agenda wish-list from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, than it is truly a bipartisan infrastructure package.”

Yet Daines wouldn’t specify what he or Republicans might support – and said he would oppose any tax increases on corporations or wealthy individuals to help pay for infrastructure.

“We do not need to raise taxes, as we are coming out of this pandemic,” he said, maintaining that 2017 tax cuts passed by Republicans made U.S. corporate tax rates more competitive with those in other countries. “It would be a mistake to raise taxes on American businesses and take away our competitive advantage.”

Daines, in Montana during a Senate break, spoke to MTN News Wednesday on a range of subjects, from the infrastructure package to the controversy over Georgia’s new voting laws. He said Biden’s $2 billion infrastructure proposal contains much more than traditional infrastructure.

“There is more money set aside for electric cars than bridges, roads, waterways and airports,” he said.

The package contains about $220 billion for items related to electric cars, such as building new charging stations across the country and tax credits for buying electric cars.

It has about $170 billion specified for highways, bridges, waterways and airports – but another $111 billion for water infrastructure and projects, $100 billion for school construction and renovation and $100 billion to expand broadband infrastructure for high-speed Internet and cell phones in rural areas.

The rest of the package includes $400 million for in-home care services, for the elderly and the disabled, $300 billion for manufacturing, including semiconductors, and $213 billion for housing.

Daines said if Democrats and Republicans work together on the bill, they could figure out how to pay for it without raising taxes.

Daines also is co-sponsoring bills to boost the financial footing of the U.S. Postal Service and allow the marijuana industry to use the banking system, rather than cash.

“This is about public safety,” he said. “We’ve heard from our attorney generals, that when you have an all-cash kind of business, it increases the amount of robberies and other crimes.”

On the new Georgia voting law, Daines said corporations weighing in against it are making “a mistake … to embrace this more progressive, far-left agenda,” and call it voter suppression.

He said they’ve mischaracterized the law, which he called “common-sense measures to improve election integrity,” such as requiring that voters show identification.

The new law says voters must provide specific I.D. to cast a mail ballot, instead of a signature match – but that’s not all it does.

It also shortens the time frame for requesting a mail ballot, limits the number of ballot drop-boxes during early voting, prohibits providing water or food to people waiting in line to vote, and gives the Republican-controlled Legislature more power over election boards.

It also adds a day for early voting and requires the state to monitor polling locations to see if wait times can be reduced.

Daines also recently visited the U.S.-Mexico border. He criticized President Biden for reversing several policies from former President Trump, that he said led to more migrants crossing into the United States.

Trump’s approach included continuing to build the border wall and having migrants seeking asylum stay in Mexico while their case is decided, instead of letting them into the United States, he said.

“The solution is to go back to policies that actually worked,” Daines said. “We were going to see 45-year lows in southern border crossings last year. We’re going to see 20-year highs this year.”