President Biden ends infrastructure negotiations with Republicans

News

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito announced that infrastructure talks between President Joe Biden and Republican leaders have stalled, following a call the two had on Tuesday.

The president started reaching out to senators from both parties, as he strives to build bipartisan compromise while laying the groundwork for a potential Democrats-only approach on his top legislative priority.

While Biden expressed gratitude to the West Virginia senator for her “good faith” efforts, he also shared his “disappointment” with the GOP senators’ latest offer, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

“The President is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer, and is pursuing multiple paths to get this done,” Psaki said in a statement.

The breakdown comes as the two sides failed to broker the divide over the scope of the president’s sweeping infrastructure investment and how to pay for it.

The Republican senators offered a $928 billion proposal, which included about $330 billion in new spending — but not as much as Biden’s $1.7 trillion investment proposal for rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, highways and other infrastructure, including Veterans Affairs hospitals and care centers.

Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 28%, and rejected the GOP senators’ suggestion of tapping unspent COVID-19 money to fund the new infrastructure spending.

In a statement, Capito said she was disappointed Biden ended the talks. Her statement said:

I spoke with the president this afternoon, and he ended our infrastructure negotiations. As Republicans, we believe in our nation’s infrastructure, which is why our negotiating team—which consisted of the Ranking Members from the committees of jurisdiction—consistently worked in good faith with President Biden and were optimistic that we could reach a bipartisan agreement for the sake of the country. Throughout our negotiations, we engaged respectfully, fully, and very candidly—delivering several serious counteroffers that each represented the largest infrastructure investment Republicans have put forth.

In our discussions with the president, he himself made it clear that he was willing to accept an offer around $1 trillion, that baseline spending would and could be included, and that a plan could stretch over an 8-year period of time. The president also understood one of our red lines, which was not undoing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which has helped so many Americans. Our latest offer, coupled with legislation the Senate is expected to pass today, would have exceeded the president’s threshold.

Despite the progress we made in our negotiations, the president continued to respond with offers that included tax increases as his pay for, instead of several practical options that would have not been harmful to individuals, families, and small businesses.

While I appreciate President Biden’s willingness to devote so much time and effort to these negotiations, he ultimately chose not to accept the very robust and targeted infrastructure package, and instead, end our discussions. However, this does not mean bipartisanship isn’t feasible. The Senate EPW Committee continues to demonstrate bipartisan action on infrastructure. In a one-month period, our committee passed a bipartisan water and wastewater infrastructure bill out of the Senate and passed a surface transportation bill unanimously out of committee. Moving forward, I will continue building on this momentum and working with my colleagues to advance bipartisan solutions like these.

After negotiating in good faith and making significant progress to move closer to what the president wanted, I am disappointed by his decision.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The president’s view is that Capito negotiated in good faith and he would welcome her in the bipartisan talks, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private thinking.

As Biden reaches for a bipartisan deal, he has begun reaching out to other senators, including Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and two key centrist Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who are engaged in a bipartisan talks.

A bipartisan group with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is meeting later Tuesday at the Capitol to negotiate a fresh proposal.

Psaki said Biden also spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as Democrats prepare for all options to move the legislation, including using special budget rules. That would allow for passage by a simple majority of 51 votes in the evenly divided Senate, without the need for GOP support.

The president is expected to engage with lawmakers while he sets out this week on his first foreign trip for an economic summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in Europe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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