GOP's counter to Biden jobs plan cuts help for seniors and caregivers

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The GOP alternative omits funding for the human infrastructure needed to provide care for children and older Americans.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and four Republican co-sponsors on Thursday unveiled a counteroffer to President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan. The proposal is missing funding amounting to three-quarters of the investments in Biden's bill, including funds for all of the bill's caregiving and child care programs.

On March 31, Biden laid out a proposal to invest trillions in roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, clean energy, transit, and human infrastructure. Republicans denounced it as "socialism" and vowed to oppose it.

While Biden called for "a once-in-a-generation investment in America, unlike anything we've done since we built the interstate highway system and won the Space Race decades ago," he said repeatedly that he was willing to negotiate with Republicans on a bipartisan compromise.

In recent weeks, Republicans have floated a smaller bill, prioritizing funding for more traditional infrastructure items. Capito, who led the GOP efforts, said on April 14 that they were aiming for a "sweet spot" between $600 billion and $800 billion.

But on Thursday, Capito and Republican Sens. John Barrasso (WY), Mike Crapo (ID), Pat Toomey (PA), and Roger Wicker (MS) unveiled their counterproposal: just $568 billion for transportation, water systems, and broadband, and nothing for green energy, combating climate change, housing, child care, or caregiving.

Wicker called the plan a "very, very generous offer," while Capito described it as a "robust package" and a "good starting point" for negotiations with the White House.

The GOP alternative omits funding for the human infrastructure needed to provide care for children and older Americans. It takes out all the provisions for "creating jobs and raising wages and benefits for essential home care workers" included in the American Jobs Plan to "upgrade child care facilities and build new supply in high need areas" and "expand access to long-term care services under Medicaid."

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, denounced the GOP plan on Thursday, vowing not to be "a part of any scheme that sells out our seniors and those with disabilities who have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic."

"The decision by Senate Republicans to completely cut the funding for home and community-based services that is in the American Jobs Plan is a slap in the face to older adults and people with disabilities. It's also an insult to the workers who provide home and community-based services," he said in a statement.

While the GOP expressly says that care workers and facilities do not count as infrastructure, polling shows the public disagrees. A Morning Consult/Politico survey released on April 14 found that nearly 60% of American voters back Biden's plan; 54% of those surveyed said caregiving "can be considered part of American infrastructure"; 53% said the same of child care.

An early April poll conducted by Data for Progress and Invest in America found that 73% of likely voters support the plan, including 57% of Republican voters. The same survey found 74% support for investments in the "care economy" and 64% support for "clean energy" investments.

If Republicans don't reach a deal with Biden, the Democratic majorities in each chamber of Congress could pass the jobs package through budget reconciliation rules without a single GOP vote — as long as they have the unanimous support of their caucus.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.