Republicans are optimistic about the possibility of reaching an infrastructure deal
Republican lawmakers left a meeting with President Joe Biden on Thursday, optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement on an infrastructure package, but lawmakers must act quickly if they hope to secure a deal before the president’s deadline which is fast approaching.
Republicans leaving the White House Thursday said a deal was possible.
Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who is leading the Republican infrastructure effort, portrayed Biden as an “honest broker” and said at Thursday’s meeting the parties laid out next steps to try to bridge the gap between their two infrastructure plans.
“He was very open to suggestions, as were we. I think this is the start – a good start I think,” Capito told Fox News. “We promised to come back with another offer that he will respond to and counter-offer. We did what we intended to do, which is take the next steps, be very cordial and ready to go. react.”
The Republican counter-offer, which is expected to be a more detailed version of the framework they presented to Biden on Thursday, could come as early as early next week, said Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, who also attended the meeting. .
Biden is then expected to thwart this offer.
“We all know we have to act pretty quickly here,” Blunt said.
There are few opportunities to make legislative progress during the summer months because the Senate leaves the city for Memorial Day, Independence Day and the August recess. The Law on Roads and Surface Transportation Systems expires in September, emphasizing the need for lawmakers to act quickly.
The main sticking point that remains to be resolved is how the infrastructure should be broadly defined.
Biden has proposed two infrastructure plans totaling around $ 4 trillion that fund everything from roads and bridges to an increase in the electricity grid, charging stations for electric vehicles, home care and public buildings, such as the schools.
The administration called some of the packaging, such as childcare and home care, “human infrastructure”. The Republicans scoffed at this and offered a counterproposal, led by Capito, that focuses on “basic” infrastructure. Their original framework would fund roads, bridges, ports, waterways, airports and broadband to around $ 568 billion.
Despite the substantive rift, following their meeting on Thursday, Capito said Biden appeared to understand the narrower Republican approach.
“I’m not saying he’s okay with that or with everything, that’s the point of a negotiation here,” Capito said. “He understands why we took some things out. If he wants to try to get us to reconsider – it’s part of a negotiation. I think he understood our point of view. He understands what we think is infrastructure. modern is. “
To reach a deal with the Republicans, the White House is signaling that it is ready to split its package and allow funding for traditional infrastructure with some support from the GOP.
He will then continue to use a procedural tool called reconciliation to push through the more controversial aspects of the Democratic plan.
Biden used reconciliation, which allows the Senate to bypass the usual 60-vote threshold to push the $ 2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill down partisan lines in March – a move that left some Republicans with a bitter taste after saying the president failed to do so. negotiate with them in good faith.
Some were skeptical that the infrastructure talks would play out any differently, but Capito signaled Thursday that if Biden chooses to use reconciliation to embrace the more controversial aspects of his plan, it won’t stop Republicans from negotiate a separate and more narrowly tailored traditional infrastructure bill. .
Even if Biden scores bipartisan success on “basic infrastructure”, it is uncertain whether he would have the support of the 50 Democrats needed to pass the “human infrastructure” aspects.
Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., said he supports a smaller, more tightly-tailored package, much like the one Republicans are proposing. And he said he would like to try to find common ground between Capito’s $ 568 billion plan and Biden’s much larger proposal.
Price isn’t necessarily a sticking point for Republicans, there is leeway as long as the bill fits traditional infrastructure.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell signaled earlier this week that the price could reach $ 800 billion.
“I made it clear that this was not a stagnant offer from us,” Capito said after suggesting she was potentially willing to raise the price of the invoice. “I didn’t want it to be seen that way at all and I think it was clear. He made it clear that he was sincere in his desire to pursue this and in the end we agreed that if it didn’t. not working, we will walk. away from friends. “
But while Republicans find the costs negotiable, there are hard lines on how to fund the bill.
Biden has offered to fund his strong infrastructure plan by raising the corporate tax rate, a no-starter for Republicans who see this as a referendum on the 2017 Trump tax bill, which some see as the achievement most important legislative part of the term of the former president.
“We are not interested in reopening the 2017 tax bill. We both made it clear to the president,” McConnell said following a White House meeting between Biden and the four congressional leaders. . “It’s a red line.”
During their meeting on Thursday, Republicans tried to convince Biden that there are better ways to fund the package. They offered to reallocate previously allocated unused money from COVID-19 relief bills, as well as private-public partnerships and user fees, like tolls.
It is not yet clear whether Biden is receptive to these funding models, but Republican optimism is clear.
“I think we pushed the ball forward today,” Capito said.
ABC News’ Trish Turner contributed to this report.