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LaHood Wants Infrastructure Bill Under $1 Trillion

 U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (third from right) met with officials from OSF HealthCare in Bloomington on Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (third from right) met with officials from OSF HealthCare in Bloomington on Tuesday.

Central Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood said he expects fellow Republicans will go along with an infrastructure bill if the Biden administration can get it between $800 billion and $1 trillion.

The latest Biden plan is close to $1.7 trillion.

LaHood, R-Peoria, said he supports funding for broadband and rail service, but not some of the other elements in the Democrats' plan.

“I don’t think the definition of infrastructure is public housing. I don’t think it should be health care related. I don’t think it should be energy projects,” LaHood claimed during a visit Tuesday to the Twin Cities. “I think those can all be things we dealt with separately when it comes with other projects, but not with infrastructure.”

LaHood said Congress should explore user fees for electric vehicles and train travel to pay for the bill, or set the gas tax to the rate of inflation. The federal gas tax hasn't changed in nearly three decades.

“I think looking at vehicle miles traveled, how do you recoup the money from electric vehicles,” LaHood suggested. “Upwards to 8% of vehicles on the road now are electric vehicles, so we’ve got to figure out a way to have some type of user fee there.”

LaHood said unspent COVID relief funds also could pay for some of the infrastructure. He said additional money for infrastructure should go into a lock box to make sure it's not spent on anything else, suggesting President Joe Biden appoint a czar to oversee how the funds are spent.

Democrats want higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for the infrastructure bill.

Surveys show Republicans remain among the most hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination rates have slowed significantly. Just over 40% of McLean County residents are fully vaccinated.

LaHood said people with questions about the vaccine should listen to their doctor.

“There’s been some hesitancy in the rural parts of my district,” LaHood acknowledged. “Talk to the people you have respect for, the people that are in the medical field. Those are the ones that know best and people that follow the science.”

LaHood said he has discouraged people from believing in conspiracy theories and following other misinformation about the vaccines.

LaHood estimated between 80% and 90% of House Republicans in Congress have received the COVID vaccine.

On another topic, LaHood said the Biden administration's plan to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11 may be premature. LaHood said many are worried the Afghan government won't be able to contain the Taliban after the U.S. leaves.

“I think there has to be some assurances there that things aren’t going to go back to they way they were when the Taliban ruled 20 years ago,” he said.

LaHood said the U.S. will have to remain engaged with its allies in the region and monitor peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years since the 9/11 attacks.

LaHood's district includes parts of Bloomington-Normal.

The Peoria Republican was in Bloomington on Tuesday to meet with OSF HealthCare officials about their plans for a new residency program for family medicine. He's seeking a $700,000 congressional appropriation to pay for hospital renovations.

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