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White House counters with $1.7 trillion infrastructure proposal in GOP talks

White House officials are presenting a $1.7 trillion counterproposal to Republicans on Friday in pursuit of a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, reducing the price tag of President BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE’s infrastructure proposal by $550 billion.

“In our view, this is the art of seeking common ground,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiLawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin Fox's John Roberts says for media, no Biden-Putin presser is a loss Harris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety, efficacy in SC event to kick off tour MORE told reporters at a briefing Friday. “This proposal exhibits a willingness to come down in size, giving on some areas that are important to the president ... while also staying firm in areas that are most vital to rebuilding our infrastructure and industries of the future.”

The offer is still far above a price tag offered by Republicans and was received tepidly on Capitol Hill, suggesting a bipartisan compromise remains out of reach.

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According to a three-page memo obtained by The Hill outlining the counterproposal, the White House is offering to reduce funding for broadband expansion to $65 billion to match a Republican offer spearheaded by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGAO rules Biden freeze on border wall funds legal How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress GOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning MORE (R-W.Va.). The new measure also reduces proposed investments in roads, bridges and other major infrastructure projects from $159 billion to $120 billion, which is still more than double the $48 billion originally proposed by Republicans.

Additionally, the memo says that Biden is willing to “take off the table” investments in research and development, supply chains, and manufacturing and pursue them in separate ongoing legislative efforts.

Psaki mentioned negotiations surrounding the Endless Frontiers Act and the CHIPS Act as potential avenues during Friday’s briefing.

Officials also suggested Biden is open to compromise on a financing facility for which a “range of infrastructure projects” would be eligible. Biden’s initial plan included a $27 billion facility for energy infrastructure and a $10 billion one for medium-sized manufacturers.

White House representatives met virtually with Republicans on Capitol Hill on Friday as part of ongoing infrastructure talks. Capito presented a counteroffer to the White House earlier this week after initially proposing a $568 billion infrastructure proposal with other GOP senators. 

The memo was sent by the White House to Capito’s office.

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A Capito spokesperson called the counteroffer “well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support” and said the White House and Senate Republicans continue to disagree on “the definition of infrastructure, the magnitude of proposed spending, and how to pay for it.”

“Based on today’s meeting, the groups seem further apart after two meetings with White House staff than they were after one meeting with President Biden,” the Capito spokesperson said. “Senate Republicans will further review the details in today’s counteroffer and continue to engage in conversations with the administration.”

Publicly, White House officials and Republican senators involved in the infrastructure negotiations have expressed optimism about the ongoing talks, though the developments Friday are likely to add to skepticism that a bipartisan deal can be reached.

Capito along with Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' GOP Rep. Vicky Hartzler launches Missouri Senate bid Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' MORE (Mo.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOn The Money: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process on Wednesday | Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits McConnell presses for 'actual consequences' in disclosure of tax data Four states emerge as test case for cutting off jobless benefits MORE (Idaho), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (Pa.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US Bipartisan bill proposes to add billion in restaurant relief funds MORE (Miss.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoJudge halts Biden pause on new public lands oil leasing GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' Biden land management pick faces GOP scrutiny over decades-old tree spiking case MORE (Wyo.). met with Biden, Vice President Harris and other administration officials at the White House last week.

In another sign of how far apart both sides remain, Friday’s memo contains a section more than a page long that raises concerns about investments that are either “entirely left out” or inadequately funded by the Republican proposal.

For instance, officials reiterated Biden’s support for power sector investments and tax credits; funding to plug oil and gas wells and clean up abandoned mines; building construction funding and tax credits; funding for veterans’ hospital repairs; and an expansion of home care.

The memo also suggests that Biden will not back down on his push for funding for electric vehicles, elimination of lead pipes and greater resilience of physical infrastructure to protect it from extreme weather.

Republicans have been critical not only of the size of Biden’s infrastructure proposal, which he laid out in March, but also of his proposed increase of the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent to pay for the investments. They have suggested covering the costs with user fees.

The White House and Republicans remain far apart on how to pay for a package.

"[Biden] fundamentally disagrees with the approach of increasing the burden on working people through increased gas taxes and user fees, regardless of where users live or the type of vehicles they drive,” the White House memo sent to Republicans states. “As you know, he made a commitment to the American people not to raise taxes on those making less than $400,000 per year, and he intends to honor that commitment.”

“Major corporations are among the largest users of transportation infrastructure in our country. They are also paying the lowest level of taxes as a share of our economy since the 1930s. Our approach should ensure that corporations are paying their fair share,” it continues.

White House officials say they want to see progress on infrastructure by Memorial Day — a deadline less than two weeks away — but it’s unclear exactly what they will view as progress.

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Some Democrats don’t want Biden to spend too long negotiating with Republicans before deciding to use budget reconciliation to push through a bill with only Democratic support. 

But Biden ran on being a unity candidate who could work with Republicans, and allies say he genuinely wants a bipartisan deal if an agreement can be reached.

—Updated at 5:40 p.m.