Biden to meet with key GOP senator Wednesday on infrastructure
President Biden will meet with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) at the White House on Wednesday as part of bipartisan negotiations with Republicans on a potential infrastructure deal.
A White House official and Senate aide on Tuesday confirmed plans for the meeting, which Biden indicated last week would occur while Congress is on recess this week.
“The President is looking forward to hosting Senator Capito on Wednesday afternoon at the White House, where they will continue their bipartisan negotiations about investing in our middle class and economic growth through infrastructure,” the White House official said.
The White House and Senate Republicans have been in negotiations for several weeks on a package to invest in the nation’s infrastructure but remain divided on the size of the package, how to pay for it and even what infrastructure means. Still, both sides have periodically expressed optimism about the potential for an agreement.
For Biden, who campaigned as a unity candidate who could work across the aisle, inking a bipartisan deal in the first year of his presidency would be a major accomplishment that he could wield ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. No Republican voted in favor of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation earlier this year, and the partisan divisions in Washington have left many skeptical of the possibility of bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
Capito last met with Biden at the White House along with other GOP senators on May 13, and White House officials have been engaging with Senate staff since. Last week, Senate Republicans unveiled a $928 billion counterproposal after Biden lowered his offer to $1.7 trillion.
The White House initially said officials wanted to see progress on a deal by Memorial Day, but Biden has indicated that he’s willing to wait some time beyond that to see if a bipartisan deal is possible. White House allies expect Biden to make a decision to move forward using budget reconciliation — which would allow him to pass a bill without GOP support — by mid-June if a deal with Republicans is not reached.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the Biden administration is “getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut-bait moment” on the infrastructure talks with Republicans and said there needed to be “clear direction” on infrastructure by June 7, when senators return to Washington.
The White House appeared encouraged last week by the higher Republican offer, but said that critical needs remained left out of the proposal, including funding to fix aging veterans hospitals, remove lead pipes from buildings and invest in green technologies.
Republicans say that a bill needs to focus solely on traditional physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges.
Moreover, Republican senators are opposed to Biden’s plans to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals — which would roll back the 2017 tax cuts passed under then-President Trump — in order to pay for his agenda.
The senators have instead proposed paying for an infrastructure bill through a combination of unspent coronavirus relief funds, user fees and infrastructure financing. The White House has opposed repurposing coronavirus relief funding and said that user fees would violate Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on those making less than $400,000 annually.
Jordain Carney contributed to this report, which was updated at 9:50 a.m.