Biden says he and GOP both ‘sincere about’ seeking infrastructure compromise
President Biden said Thursday that both he and congressional Republicans are making “a genuine effort” to compromise on infrastructure.
Biden huddled in the Oval Office with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and a group of other GOP senators who have unveiled an infrastructure proposal about a third the size of his own $2.3 trillion plan. Biden is trying to feel out whether there is space for a bipartisan deal, a possibility of which both Republicans and Democrats remain skeptical.
“We’ll see if we can work out some, on a compromise on infrastructure. And I know they’re sincere about it, so am I,” he told reporters who were briefly allowed into the meeting Thursday afternoon. Biden said that he and the senators would discuss what exactly constitutes infrastructure and how large of an investment should be made in rebuilding it.
“It’s a genuine effort, I think we get there,” he said.
The president told reporters he is “prepared to compromise” when asked if he was prepared to make an offer below the plan he has laid out, reiterating his openness to change on his proposal.
Capito and the other Republicans have introduced a $568 billion infrastructure plan that focuses on repairing traditional infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Biden’s includes funding for those projects as well as electric vehicles and other technologies to address climate change, research and development and home care.
Senators said during a brief exchange with reporters following the meeting that they were encouraged.
“We had a very productive, more than courteous give and take,” Capito said. “We did talk specifics, and the president has asked us to come back and rework an offer so that he can react to that and re-offer to us.”
Despite Biden’s and the senators’ stated optimism, Republicans and Democrats remain far apart on the elements of an infrastructure bill and how to pay for it. And members of both parties are skeptical of the opposing side’s willingness to negotiate in good faith.
Following a meeting with Biden at the White House on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sounded optimistic about the possibility of a deal but also said Republicans told Biden they would not support undoing parts of the 2017 tax cut bill signed into law by former President Trump.
Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, a level set by the 2017 tax law, in order to pay for the infrastructure plan over 15 years.
Among those in attendance for Thursday’s meeting were GOP Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.). Vice President Harris, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also represented the administration at the meeting, which concluded after about an hour and a half.
Without a bipartisan deal, Biden would need to try to advance parts or all of his $4 trillion legislative agenda using budget reconciliation with only Democratic support, which would require getting every Senate Democrat on board with a bill.
The White House says that it wants to see “progress” on legislation by Memorial Day but hasn’t offered firm details on what that means. Press secretary Jen Psaki indicated Thursday that officials would evaluate where things stand at the end of the month but wouldn’t necessarily make a decision on whether to move forward with reconciliation then.
The White House says it would like to see a bill passed by summer.
—Updated at 3:27 p.m.