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Moderate GOP senators and Biden clash at start of infrastructure debate

A group of 10 Republican senators who met with President BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE for his first official Oval Office visit on Feb. 1 said Wednesday that the Biden administration “roundly dismissed our effort” to reach a bipartisan compromise on a COVID-19 relief package. 

The 10 lawmakers issued a joint statement pushing back on Biden’s criticism earlier in the day that the group of mostly moderate Republicans “didn’t move an inch” from their proposal to spend $618 billion on the pandemic relief package Congress passed last month.

Democrats ultimately passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was largely based on Biden’s original proposal, without a single Republican vote in the Senate or House.

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Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments White House draws ire of progressives amid voting rights defeat Murkowski to vote 'no' on voting rights bill MORE (D-N.Y.) used the budget reconciliation process to pass the bill through the Senate with a simple majority vote.

“The administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy,” the senators said in their statement.

“Fewer than 24 hours after our meeting in the Oval Office, the Senate Democratic Leader began the process for triggering reconciliation which precluded Republican participation allowed the package to pass without a single Republican vote,” they said.

The group of Republican senators, led by Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP torpedoes election bill; infrastructure talks hit snag White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP torpedoes election bill; infrastructure talks hit snag White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall Schumer vows next steps after 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE (Alaska), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed MORE (Utah), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure MORE (Ohio) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Overnight 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 MORE (W.Va.) issued the statement to rebut Biden’s claim that they weren’t willing to compromise.

“A Republican group came to see me, and they started off at $600 billion, and that was it,” Biden told reporters Wednesday when asked if he would fail to fulfill his promise of bringing bipartisanship to Washington if Republicans again vote in unison against his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan.

The president said he was prepared to craft a bipartisan pandemic relief package but Republican lawmakers refused to give any ground.

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“I would’ve been prepared to compromise, but they didn’t. They didn’t move an inch. Not an inch,” he said.

The GOP senators noted Wednesday that their $618 billion proposal “included the core COVID relief elements of the Biden administration’s plan,” such as providing $160 billion to support vaccines and testing.

They also pointed out that they offered to increase the size of the package to $650 billion to increase the size of proposed stimulus checks.

The clash between Biden and GOP senators bodes poorly for the prospect of his Build Back Better infrastructure plan picking up much bipartisan support.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' Democrats' narrow chance to retain control after 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) has attacked the first tranche of Biden’s infrastructure agenda as a “Trojan horse” for tax increases and a litany of liberal priorities, predicting it won’t pick up Republican support in the Senate.