WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden is set to hit the road Friday to mark Amtrak’s 50th anniversary in Philadelphia but he’ll also use it as a chance to push his sweeping $1.8 trillion infrastructure plan.
This comes on the heels of his Wednesday night speech to Congress when he called for $1.8 trillion in infrastructure spending and $2.3 trillion in aid for families, all funded by tax hikes on Americans making more than $400,000 per year.
The infrastructure proposal would devote $621 billion to improving roads, bridges, public transit and other transportation infrastructure. Of that, $80 billion would go toward tackling Amtrak’s repair backlog, improving service along the Northeast Corridor and expanding service across the U.S.
Amtrak said after Biden announced the plan that the corporation would upgrade and expand service, including by adding 30 new routes and adding trains on 20 existing routes across the U.S. by 2035. New service would begin in portions of northeast Pennsylvania including Scranton, where Biden was born, as well as Nashville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Las Vegas; Houston; Dallas; and Austin, Texas, if approved by Congress.
But while the $80 billion represents a significant investment, the money would not go far in terms of funding high-speed rail. Amtrak has estimated that it has a $31 billion repair backlog for its trains in the Northeast Corridor alone, and transportation analysts say adding new lines in that region could easily use up the funds that remain.
As a U.S. senator, Biden was a fixture on Amtrak trains between his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and Washington, D.C., when the Senate was in session. He continued riding Amtrak as vice president. He has sometimes been referred to as “Amtrak Joe.”
Republican lawmakers have been quick to criticize the infrastructure proposal from Biden. They say just a fraction of the spending would go to traditional infrastructure. Biden’s plan devotes $400 billion to expand Medicaid support for caregivers, and substantial portions would fund electric vehicle charging stations and address the racial injustice of highways that were built in ways that devastated Black neighborhoods
A Senate Republican counteroffer to Biden’s plan, totaling $568 billion over five years, would devote a slimmer $20 billion to U.S. rail service.
To help pay for their plan, the Republicans would rely on user fees, including for electric vehicles, and on redirecting unspent federal dollars. The outline does not offer specifics, such as which programs would receive funding. Republicans have rejected Biden’s proposal raising the corporate income tax from 21% to 28% to help pay for his plan.
Republicans earlier this year also offered a counterproposal to Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan. Their price tag came in at about one-third of what the president wanted, and he soon declared it inadequate. Democrats went forward on their own and passed the relief bill without the support of any GOP lawmakers.
Biden is spending more time this go-around listening to Republicans and voicing a willingness to consider their ideas, but the end result could be the same.