GOP infrastructure plan ignores climate change and punishes electric car owners

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Republicans want to make sure drivers of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles pay more.

Senate Republicans are reportedly planning to offer their own infrastructure plan, providing about a third of the funding President Joe Biden says is needed. And, in addition to stripping out the climate infrastructure investments from the American Jobs Plan, their proposal would be funded in large part by punishing the most environmentally friendly drivers.

Politico reported Tuesday that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and a group of GOP colleagues told their party caucus that they wanted to replace Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure package with one that costs somewhere between $550 billion and $880 billion. Instead of Biden's proposed corporate tax increases, their plan would be largely funded by canceling already approved COVID-19 relief spending and by charging user fees to drivers of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Biden's American Jobs Plan would provide billions in investments in roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, clean energy, transit, and human infrastructure like child care. He has repeatedly expressed a willingness to compromise with the Republican congressional minority, but their proposals to date have mostly involved slashing about two-thirds out of his plan and leaving out nearly everything but the roads, bridges, and broadband.

Republicans have spent weeks attacking Biden's plan as "socialism," trying to convince voters that only roads and bridges count as infrastructure and warning that Biden's plan would bring "dangerous" things like recyclable school lunch trays.

Many have specifically opposed any investment in clean energy and efforts to curb climate change, claiming the package was secretly a "Trojan horse" to let Democrats pass the Green New Deal.

Biden ran in 2020 on a promise not to raise taxes on anyone making $400,000 or less. His plan would keep that promise, raising the corporate tax rates — slashed under Donald Trump's 2017 tax legislation — and closing corporate tax loopholes. Republicans have promised to unanimously oppose any such increases, even though polls show they and the rest of the plan are widely popular.

A new fee on environmentally responsible drivers could certainly hit the middle-class families Biden promised to protect.

It would also discourage people from using fossil-fuel-free vehicles. Electric cars make up only a tiny fraction of the vehicles on the road — about 2% — but there is a growing demand for them among climate-conscious consumers. Higher fees would make this a less affordable option for many.

According to the Sierra Club, these vehicles cause less wear and tear on roads, improve public health and air quality, and reduce climate gas emissions. "With EV technology still relatively new, this is the time to incentivize, not penalize, a shift to cleaner vehicles," the group urged in a fact-sheet.

Biden has reportedly given Republicans until mid-May to make a counteroffer. If the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate stick together though, they have the votes to pass Biden's plan without any GOP votes.

As Republicans continue to pretend that climate change is not a serious threat to long-term infrastructure, Biden continues to make it a priority. In addition to the large investments in his proposed jobs plan, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that he plans to pledge this week to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.