White House sees GOP proposal as legitimate starting point

The White House on Thursday signaled it would be open to further talks with Republican lawmakers after they proposed a significantly reduced infrastructure plan to counter President Biden’s $2.2 trillion proposal.

Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the administration believes the $568 billion proposal from Senate Republicans unveiled earlier in the day is a legitimate starting point for ongoing talks, and she said the president would likely host lawmakers at the White House for further discussions in the coming weeks. 

“It’s the beginning of a discussion,” Psaki said. “And the next steps will be conversations at the staff level, conversations between senior members of our administration, members of Congress, appropriate committee staff through the course of next week, and then as I noted the president will invite members down to the White House. But there are a lot of details to be discussed.”

Republicans have largely balked at Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposal, which outlines $2.3 trillion worth of spending to invest in roads, bridges, railways, electric vehicles, broadband, long-term care workers, weatherizing buildings and climate friendly industries.

Biden proposed paying for the plan through an increase in the corporate tax rate, though he has said he’d be willing to discuss ways to fund the proposal.

The proposal unveiled Thursday by a group of Senate Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) narrowed down the definition of infrastructure and focused on funding for roads and bridges, public transit systems, rail, wastewater infrastructure, airports and broadband infrastructure.

Senate Republicans are proposing user fees for electric vehicles and repurposing unused federal spending allocated by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Congress passed in March to cover the cost of the plan.

The White House’s willingness to meet Republicans where they are and continue talks marked a sharp contrast to its approach to the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic relief bill passed earlier this year without a single Republican vote.

A group of Republican senators, which also included Capito, countered the White House’s proposal with a $618 billion plan of their own. But Biden and his aides quickly shot down the GOP offer, saying it did not meet the needs of the moment.

Asked why the White House seems more willing to allow time for negotiations on infrastructure, Psaki said the administration views the two proposals differently.

“The American Rescue Plan was an emergency package. We were trying to deal with what we saw, continues to be, an emergency fight against a global pandemic … and the president felt it was imperative that the size of that package, the scope of that package met the moment and that it happened quickly,” she said.

“We have a little bit more time here, and we are very open to hearing a range of mechanisms, a range of options for moving this package forward,” she added. “There could be smaller packages that pass, there could be different mechanisms for moving things forward, and we think it could be done on a bipartisan basis. So we’re looking for the opportunity to do that.”

While some Democrats such as Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), a close Biden ally, have embraced the idea of passing a bipartisan down payment on Biden’s infrastructure agenda, others have called for Congress to “go big” right out of the gate.

Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have already criticized the GOP infrastructure proposal as inadequate.

Any final bill would need 60 votes to pass the Senate, unless Democrats opt to use the budget reconciliation process to pass legislation with a simple majority.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bob Casey Chris Coons Infrastructure Jen Psaki Joe Biden Shelley Moore Capito
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