Biden Ends Infrastructure Negotiations With Senate GOP

Biden Ends Infrastructure Negotiations With Senate GOP

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
June 8, 2021

President Biden on Tuesday abruptly ended infrastructure talks with a GOP group, after one-on-one talks with a key negotiator, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) officially broken down as Democrats move closer to ram the original tax-and-spend infrastructure bill proposed without bipartisan support using budget reconciliation before the Summer recess.

Capito in a statement stated the final call with Biden was a five-minute call that was “respectful and candid,” but expressed disappointment at the president decision to cut off negotiations.

“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,” Capito said in a statement.

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

Biden and Capito have spoken by phone or in person several times since the president unveiled his $2.2 trillion American Jobs Plan in late March. Capito, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has led a group of GOP senators in talks.

The two parties remained too far apart to find a compromise for a deal during Tuesday’s brief five minute discussion. Despite weeks of talks, both were still in deadlock over agreement on how to define what constitutes infrastructure, along with a set price tag or how to pay for the infrastructure package.

Biden initially proposed a $2.23 trillion plan in March. But Biden brought his bill down last month down to $1.7 trillion in a counterproposal response to GOP $650 billion counter offer in April. Republicans refused to consider any sort of tax hikes or changes to the 2017 “Trump Tax Cuts” as means to pay for Biden’s legislation and wanted to pay for some of the bill with unused COVID-19 funds. They also demanded that he removed social spending progressive Democrats claimed was infrastructure but were unrelated to the real definition of infrastructure.

Capitoin her statement stated that “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.”

Under the GOP nearly $650 billion plan, $299 billion would have been allocated toward roads and bridges, with $65 billion going towards broadband expansion, $61 billion for public transit, $44 billion for airports, $35 billion for water systems, $20 billion for railways, $17 billion for inland waterways and ports, $14 billion for water storage and $13 billion for safety measures.

Biden $1.7 trillion counterproposal slashed rural broadband from $100 billion to $65 billion, mirroring the GOP proposal, with funding for “roads, bridges, and major infrastructure projects” was also slashed from $159 billion down to $120 billion.

According to administration officials, Biden now plans to turn his attention toward striking a deal with a a different group of senator, dubbed the “G20,” compromised of bipartisan group of 20 senators led by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The G20 group have floated a much larger bill than the Republican group, a $900 billion infrastructure proposal focused on roads, bridges and other traditional projects.

“I’m working hard to find common ground with Republicans when it comes to the American Jobs Plan, but I refuse to raise taxes on Americans making under $400,000 a year to pay for it,” Biden tweeted Tuesday. “It’s long past time the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released a statement shortly after Capito statement, stating that Biden “informed Senator Capito today that the latest offer from her group did not, in his view, meet the essential needs of our country.”

“He offered his gratitude to her for her efforts and good faith conversations, but expressed his disappointment that, while he was willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by only $150 billion.”

Psaki also noted that Biden talked to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about the potential for using the budget reconciliation process to pass parts of Biden’s jobs plan next month. Reconciliation would likely require dropping aspects of Biden’s proposal due to parliamentary rules, but it would only require a simple majority of 51 votes instead of 60 to pass in the Senate.

“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.

Earlier in the day, Schumer said the talks “seem to be running into a brick wall,” adding that he plans to move forward with an infrastructure bill in the Senate in July, whether a deal between the two sides is reached or not.

“We’re pursuing a two path proposal. On the one hand there’s bipartisan negotiations, and those are continuing. The first were between President Biden and Senator Capito and just Republicans. Those seem to be running into a brick wall, but a bipartisan group led by Senator Sinema, and I think Senator Portman, as the lead Republican are trying to put something together that might be closer to what the President needs,” Schumer said in a press conference Tuesday.

“But that’s not going to be the only answer. We all know as a caucus, we will not be able to do all the things that the country needs in a totally bipartisan way,” Schumer added. “And so at the same time, we are pursuing the pursuit of reconciliation. And that is going on at the same time, and it may well be that part of the bill that’ll pass will be bipartisan and part of it will be through reconciliation. But we’re not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill. We will just pursue two paths and at some point they will join.”

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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