A coalition of organizations representing mayors and local lawmakers penned a letter to Congress this week, asking the government not to pull funds from their American Rescue Plan allocation to pay for an infrastructure overhaul.
The joint request from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties was written last week, and was addressed to House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle.
“We write to express our adamant opposition to any proposal that would detrimentally recoup and repurpose funds allocated to local governments from the American Rescue Plan Act,” the letter reads in part. “These federal funds were provided to local governments to address the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and are essential to providing emergency assistance to households and small businesses, maintaining critical government services, driving economic recovery and addressing the ongoing public health crisis.”
The American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed into law in early March, provided $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to deal with the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Half of those funds were released in May, with the second half set to be released to local governments next year, with certain exceptions.
The request from mayors and local lawmakers comes as Senate Republicans attempt to draft a suitable counter-offer to President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, a $1.7 trillion trillion package that would be paid for by raising the historically low corporate tax rate to 28%.
Republicans take issue both with what is included in Biden’s sweeping package, as well as his proposed method to pay for it.
GOP senators instead want to repurpose as-yet-unused funds from the American Rescue Plan. Not a single Senate Republican voted in favor of the $1.9 trillion package, and Republicans now say the unused money could lead to rampant inflation.
According to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), the leftover funds from several provisions in the American Rescue Plan — not only the money given to state and local governments — amounts to nearly $700 billion.
“We believe that repurposing these funds needs to be a really important part of how we fill this gap,” Sen. Toomey said upon introducing the latest version of the GOP’s counteroffer, which totals around $928 billion. “Clearly the resources are there to do this.”
“When we talk about this $700 billion, or repurposing money, there is clearly money that should be spent in ways where the money has already been committed,” added Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. “It’s not additional borrowing, and additional spending.”
But the letter from the U.S. Conference of Mayors specifically asked that the federal government create a robust infrastructure package that will not come at the “expense of reducing funds already authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act.”
“Despite the obvious and critical need for these dollars, there have been recent Congressional proposals to clawback these funds,” the letter added. “We oppose these proposals, both in general and as a pay-for for infrastructure.”
President Biden set a tentative June 7 deadline for the White House to reach a deal with Senate Republicans. But the possibility of a satisfactory solution for both parties appears bleak, as the president reportedly thinks the current GOP proposition is “unworkable,” per the Associated Press.
Biden met with GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who is serving as a top liaison for Republicans in the negotiation process, at the White House on Wednesday. The two are expected to reconvene on Friday to continue their talks.