Senate GOP warns of ‘vast differences’ with White House on infrastructure
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 Capito (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 Biden’s $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan.
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 Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Roger Wicker (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.
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 Klain, 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 Markey (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.