Negotiations will proceed after the GOP talks have ended
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s administration is not abandoning a bipartisan infrastructure deal after talks with Republican senators break down and open to Senate Democrats’ strategy to pass certain components of the measure without Republican support.
Negotiations lasting for weeks resulted in little progress, large differences in costs and taxes remained incompatible. Republicans accused the president of changing his demands and unwillingness to compromise his insistence on “social infrastructure”, while the White House said the Republicans’ offers did not meet US needs.
But the White House claimed it still had “multiple avenues” for passing an infrastructure bill, including using a special legislative maneuver that did not require Republican support, a separate proposal from the House Democrats and a bipartisan group of Senators that hit it have week on a compromise.
More: Biden ends infrastructure talks with the GOP senatorial group and pushes the moderates forward
Biden opened talks with the group of about 20 Senators, including Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Bill Cassidy, R-La., Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D- Ariz.
“(The President is) familiar with the fact that sometimes it takes a little patience, that there will be moments when we are close to death and then it comes back,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Air Force reporters One when Biden flew to Europe on Wednesday. “This is how politics, legislation and draft legislation always go.”
Talks with bipartisan senatorial group
After breaking negotiations with a group of Republicans led by West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito on Tuesday, Biden reached out to the bipartisan group of Senators that had gathered over the past few weeks to investigate their own infrastructure proposals when Biden’s other conversations fizzled out.
Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, attend a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on US policy towards Belarus in the Dirksen Senate office building on Wednesday.Kevin Dietsch, Getty Images
Biden spoke to Manchin, Sinema, and Cassidy on Tuesday night. The White House said he would continue to speak to the group by phone while in Europe.
But as new negotiations begin, some of the same differences have already emerged in taxes on infrastructure spending and components that go beyond the Republican view of traditional infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and railways.
More: Biden offers Trump’s 2017 tax cuts in the infrastructure counter-offer to GOP. keep intact
In his last infrastructure offering to the Republicans, Biden cut the new spending to $ 1 trillion from the initial $ 2.25 trillion introduced in March with his American Jobs plan. Capito and the GOP Senators raised their counteroffer to $ 978 billion, but it only included around $ 300 billion in new spending over previously approved funds, leaving a difference of $ 700 billion with the President.
Portman, a negotiator in the group of senators Biden is now working with, said they are making progress but did not disclose the cost of what they are investigating. He also set out similar parameters that caused disagreement with Biden in previous conversations, saying a package can only include traditional physical infrastructure.
“Roads, bridges and hard assets, they are not social programs,” Portman said.
More: “The clock is ticking”: The Democrats get restless at Biden’s infrastructure talks, while the Republicans come up with the next counter offer
Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., speaks during a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Funds for Commerce, Justice, Science and Allied Agencies Wednesday.Stefani Reynolds, AP
Republicans have doomed previous negotiations and opposed all spending beyond roads, bridges, airports and other traditional physical infrastructure as Biden remains committed to the “social infrastructure” that includes care for the disabled and the elderly and investment Combating climate change includes.
Romney said Democrats likely need to pursue climate change initiatives outside of an infrastructure bill. He also ruled out corporate tax hikes that would reverse the 2017 tax cuts, as Biden suggested in his American Jobs Plan, and user fees, which Biden opposes.
“There are no tax increases on our payroll. And that’s a red line for Republicans,” Romney said.
White House open to reconciliation
If Biden fails to reach an agreement, Democrats could choose to push through an infrastructure package through budget balancing, a legislative maneuver subject to certain rules that would allow the bill to be passed by a simple majority in the evenly-divided Senate. Essentially, it would allow the Democrats who control the Chamber to pass a proposal without Republican support.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Senate Democrats are pursuing a “two-way proposal” that includes reconciliation. He envisioned a scenario in which Biden reaches a bipartisan agreement on traditional infrastructures like roads, bridges and broadband, and the Democrats seek, through reconciliation, to pass another law that would include initiatives the two sides could not agree on.
President Joe Biden waves as he steps onto Air Force One before departing Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, Wednesday.Brendan Smialowski, AFP via Getty Images
“It may well be that part of the bill will be bipartisan, part of it through reconciliation,” said Schumer. “But we’re not going to sacrifice the size and audacity in this bill. We’re just going to take two paths and at some point they will combine.”
Some Democrats, unconvinced that Republicans are serious about negotiations, have been advocating this approach for weeks.
More: Biden proposes a $ 1.8 trillion “family plan” with paid vacation, childcare, universal pre-K, free community college
Psaki said Biden is open to Schumer’s two-pronged strategy, which includes reconciliation. She noted that proposals in Biden’s $ 1.8 trillion family plan like expanding child tax credits, universal pre-kindergarten, and free community college are not among the areas negotiated with lawmakers.
“So these would be natural components that would be added to the budget process,” she said.
The reconciliation process would mirror how Biden passed his COVID-19 bailout plan in March, but it carries risks as all 50 Democratic senators would have to be on board. Manchin, a major moderate swing vote, has not said whether he will support reconciliation to pass an infrastructure bill.
More: Manchin’s staunch opposition to the filibuster ending threatens Biden’s agenda
The Democrats in the House of Representatives present their own infrastructure proposals
The White House has pointed to the House’s ongoing efforts as one more pathway for infrastructure. But one Democrat-driven bill represents only a fraction of the spending Biden wants, while another from a bipartisan group would see a surge in Senate support.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee began adopting a five-year $ 547 billion transportation bill known as the Invest in America Act, which could be turned into a vehicle for an infrastructure bill only by the Democrats.
The measure includes earmarked funds to finance specific projects, which are usually included in broad expenditure accounts by the legislature.
More: “Big question is the scope”: Biden, GOP are still arguing about “social infrastructure” as the White House signals that it wants a deal soon
House Republicans, who proposed a $ 400 billion package last month, are against the move. Only a fraction of the bill is earmarked (roughly $ 5.7 billion), but the bill’s sponsors hope it could get reluctant Republicans to endorse it.
Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives, who form the problem-solving caucus, introduced their entry into the infrastructure raffle: an eight-year package worth $ 1.25 trillion that not only modernizes traditional means of transport such as roads, bridges and rail, but would also appeal to broadband veterans’ housing, electric vehicles and superfund sites.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, speaks during a Senate Fund Allocation Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday in Washington, DC.Al Drago, POOL / AFP via Getty Images
More: GOP Senators unveil a new $ 928 billion infrastructure plan in the latest offering to Biden
The group of 58 legislators’ plan would rely on a combination of increased private partnerships to pay the bill, as well as some modest increases in revenue, such as: For example, indexing the current federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon to inflation and the introduction of a “modest annual registration fee for fully electric and hybrid electric vehicles.
“It is critical that we legally sign a robust infrastructure package and do so with strong bipartisan support,” said Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus.
But the Problem Solvers Caucus plan illustrates the difficulty of compromising and calls for modest tax and revenue increases – tax increases that go against what Republicans in the bipartisan group would accept.
Reach out to Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
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Published on June 9, 2021 at 22:58 UTC
Updated June 9, 2021 at 22:15 UTC