Senate GOP warns of 'vast differences' with White House on infrastructure

Senate GOP warns of 'vast differences' with White House on infrastructure
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans said there are “vast differences” between them and senior White House officials over how much to spend on a new infrastructure package and how to pay for it, leaving little hope of a bipartisan deal anytime soon.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSeven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal MORE (W.Va.), one of the lead GOP negotiators, said a White House counteroffer proposed during a Friday afternoon conference call with GOP lawmakers was “well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support.”

White House officials presented to the Senate Republicans a $1.7 trillion infrastructure spending plan, which represents a $550 billion reduction to President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE’s $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan.

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That offer fell flat with Capito and other Republicans.

“There continue to be vast differences between the White House and Senate Republicans when it comes to the definition of infrastructure, the magnitude of proposed spending, and how to pay for it,” said Kelley Moore, a spokeswoman for Capito.

“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 aide added.

Capito participated in a conference call Friday with White House senior staff along with Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Tracy Stone-Manning's confirmation treatment was simply unacceptable — and it must stop Former Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi dies after bicycle accident MORE (R-Wyo.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMissouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate New spotlight on secretaries of state as electoral battlegrounds MORE (R-Mo.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-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 (R-Pa.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Here's evidence the Senate confirmation process is broken Commerce office used racial profiling operating as 'rogue' police force: Senate report MORE (R-Miss.).

The subtle jab at White House staff echoes a criticism that Republican senators voiced during the failed talks over Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was focused on pandemic relief.

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The 10 Republicans who negotiated with Biden earlier this year on COVID-19 relief said Biden initially seemed receptive to their ideas during a Feb. 1 Oval Office meeting but that White House advisers, including White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week White House looks to cool battle with Facebook MORE, later reined in the talks.

Capito’s spokeswoman said the GOP group would review the White House counteroffer and “continue to engage in conversations with the administration.”

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Nearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Mass.), a prominent progressive, pounced on the lack of progress at Friday’s meeting to call on Democratic leaders to move forward quickly with a large infrastructure that would need to special protection under the budget reconciliation process to bypass a GOP filibuster.

“Now is the time to go big, to go bold, and to go fast. This is not the time for half-measures, half-spending or foot-dragging,” Markey said in a statement. “Let’s not waste time trading the necessary scope and scale of this critical infrastructure package for Congressional Republican votes that have yet to and will never materialize.”

A White House memo sent to Capito on Friday estimated that the proposal she submitted to administration officials this week would increase “new” infrastructure investment by only $50 billion.

The Biden-Harris team estimated that Capito’s road map “would increase new investment, above current levels Congress has traditionally funded, from about $175 billion to $225 billion.”

“We recognize that still leaves us far apart,” the memo stated. “However, in service of trying to advance these negotiations, the President has asked us to respond with changes to his American jobs plan.

The proposed White House changes included addressing manufacturing, research and development and supply chain investments separately, modifying investment in broadband, and providing $27 billion for an infrastructure financing facility to leverage private capital for energy infrastructure projects.