Adviser says Biden wants GOP support for infrastructure if ‘possible’
President Biden wants to advance an infrastructure bill in a bipartisan way if “possible,” a top White House adviser said Sunday, indicating Biden’s preference to work with Republicans on a package but not ruling out moving ahead without them.
“President Biden has been clear that he knows this is a negotiation, that he knows that a negotiation requires compromise at some point and that he wants to move this package forward in a bipartisan way if that is possible,” White House senior adviser Anita Dunn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We are looking forward to having discussions. We are open to people’s ideas. This is discussion time and idea time for the White House,” she continued.
Dunn said Biden had a positive conversation with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) last week after she led a group of Republicans offering a counterproposal that is roughly a third the size of Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure and climate proposal and focuses on traditional infrastructure such as modernizing roads and bridges.
“We plan to have serious discussions with Sen. Capito and her colleagues. The president has said his red line is inaction, that we cannot afford not to make these investments in America’s economy and America’s workers, in good jobs for workers,” Dunn said.
Dunn’s remarks are consistent with those of Biden and other White House officials indicating that the president is open to compromise but not unwilling to resort to reconciliation to pass a package with only Democrats as he did with his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.
Biden, who campaigned as a moderate who could work across the aisle, would be taking a risk in moving ahead without Republicans, recent surveys suggest.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released ahead of his 100-day mark found that 60 percent of American adults say they would rather see Biden try to win support from Republicans by making major changes to his proposals, compared with 30 percent who would prefer he try to enact his ideas without major changes even if it means not getting GOP support.
Dunn did not directly answer when asked by host Jake Tapper whether Biden is willing to come down in the cost of his proposal in order to get it passed, saying only that Biden has made clear his willingness to negotiate and compromise and that he believes both parties “should be able to find common ground on these common goals for our country.”
She added that it is important that any package repair infrastructure such as roads and bridges, expand access to broadband, and replace lead pipes to ensure safe drinking water. Biden’s proposal includes provisions addressing those areas as well as funding for home care, electric vehicles and other green technologies, and manufacturing and research and development.
The White House says that officials hope to see “progress” on a bill by Memorial Day, a month from now, and passage by summer. But Biden’s infrastructure proposal, like his $1.8 trillion families plan, faces an uncertain fate given the thin Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and partisan gridlock in Washington.
Republicans have criticized the size of Biden’s infrastructure proposal, arguing that it includes much more than traditional infrastructure as well as his plan to pay for the investments with corporate tax hikes.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a moderate Democrat who has expressed concerns with Biden’s spending proposals, suggested recently that Congress split up Biden’s infrastructure and first pass a smaller bill that focuses on “conventional” infrastructure that can receive bipartisan support. Dunn neither endorsed nor rejected the idea of splitting up the bill into pieces on Sunday.
Trying to break up the package or reduce its size could result in criticism from progressive Democrats who have pressed Biden for substantial investments in tackling climate change, further complicating the path of a negotiated bill.
Capito was encouraged by her call with Biden on Thursday, saying in a statement that the two agreed to work together to find common ground and that she stands ready “to be a partner in advancing infrastructure legislation in a bipartisan way.”
Biden currently is not expected to meet with lawmakers this week, but he is likely to resume meetings once the Senate returns the second week of May.