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White House sees paths forward on infrastructure despite stalled negotiations

The White House on Monday said it sees multiple paths forward to passing infrastructure legislation, even as talks have stalled between President BidenJoe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE and Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave Senate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office MORE (W.Va.), the top Republican negotiator in the Senate.

Biden is expected to speak with Capito before leaving for Europe on Wednesday for a week, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden to host Afghan president at White House on Friday Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE said. The two last spoke on Friday, after which the administration said Biden was underwhelmed by the senator's latest proposal. 

"The time is not unlimited here … nor is the president's willingness to compromise," Psaki said at a briefing Monday. "He made clear that the proposal the offer put on the table didn’t meet his own bar. But we’re very open to where the discussion goes from here."

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Psaki signaled three potential paths for moving forward on an infrastructure bill, which has been a priority for the administration since Biden rolled out the American Jobs Plan in late March. But none of the paths are clear at the moment, particularly if Biden is looking for bipartisan buy-in.

One path would be finding an agreement with Capito, who has met with Biden multiple times and led the GOP side of negotiations. While Psaki said the administration would continue a dialogue with Capito even after Biden leaves for Europe, she indicated the two sides remained too far apart.

"The president has come down by about $1 trillion" from his original $2.2 trillion proposal, Psaki said. "What we’ve seen on the other side is they've only come up by a small percentage of that."

Capito's most recent offer was just shy of $1 trillion total, though only a fraction of that would constitute new spending.

In the absence of a deal with Capito, Psaki pointed to other Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have been holding talks of their own on the contours of an infrastructure package, including Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanPortman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight Manchin compromise proposal a 'federal takeover of the election system,' GOP senator says MORE (R-Ohio), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPortman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (R-Utah), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinThe Memo: The center strikes back Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack MORE (D-W.Va.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPortman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R-Maine).

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The third way forward, Psaki said, would be to throw the administration's weight behind The INVEST in America Act, a bill being marked up this week by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill, which is still in the early stages in the House, contains significant overlap with Biden's American Jobs Plan and focuses primarily on investments in roads, bridges and public transit.

"It provides an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to vote to support a historic investment in infrastructure," Psaki said Monday, adding that the White House would be open to breaking Biden's jobs plan up to pass it piece-by-piece.

While the White House sees different ways of getting an infrastructure bill done, the path forward is less clear for voting rights legislation. Manchin, a key swing vote in the Senate, published an op-ed on Sunday laying out his opposition to The For the People Act, the sweeping voting rights legislation passed in the House earlier this year.

Manchin cautioned that pursuing voting rights legislation along party lines would lead to further divisions in the country. He added that he would not support ending or altering the legislative filibuster that requires 60 votes for a bill to move forward in the Senate, dimming hopes among progressives for pushing through their agenda in a 50-50 split chamber.

"We're certainly not ready to accept that analysis," Psaki said when asked if the White House views Manchin as an impediment to passing Biden's agenda.

Psaki would not get into the political dynamics of Manchin's opposition or whether the White House had been in touch with the senator prior to his op-ed publishing. But she repeatedly emphasized that the president viewed strengthening voting rights as a priority, despite its uncertain path in the Senate.

"I will say that the president considers Sen. Manchin a friend. He knows that they may disagree on some issues as they do on this particular piece of legislation," Psaki said. "He's going to continue to work with him, reach out to him, engage with him directly and through his staff on how we can work together moving forward."