Biden, Sinema meet as infrastructure talks hit rough patch
President Biden and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) met at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the stalled bipartisan infrastructure framework.
The sit-down signals a desire by Biden to get directly involved in the negotiations as lawmakers and White House officials try to finalize details of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal amid ongoing disagreements.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki later told reporters that the White House is “encouraged” by Tuesday comments from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) expressing optimism about the negotiations.
Psaki said that Biden and Sinema met Tuesday morning and are “optimistic about the path forward.” She said both are aware that the “trickiest discussions” can come at the end of negotiations.
Negotiators are racing to resolve the outstanding differences that have cropped up since Biden and a group of bipartisan senators announced an agreement on the contours of the proposal at the end of last month.
The group of bipartisan lawmakers met Monday evening to address disagreements after the framework appeared to be on shaky ground. Lawmakers are now working through issues related to funding for public transit, broadband, highways and bridges, and how to pay for the package.
Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), the lead Republican negotiator, told reporters Monday evening that senators were making progress and complained that media coverage had been too pessimistic.
Tuesday’s meeting between Biden and Sinema was first reported by Politico.
Biden’s only public event on his schedule for Tuesday afternoon is a speech to U.S. intelligence officials at the Office of Director of National Intelligence in nearby McLean, Va.
Sinema, who is the lead Democratic negotiator, previously met one-on-one with Biden in May to discuss infrastructure plans. She was also present at the White House when Biden endorsed the bipartisan framework on June 24.
Biden, who campaigned on his ability to work across the aisle, has for months sought a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. Democrats are looking to pass the rest of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda in a massive $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, which allows them to do so without receiving in Republican votes.
Jordain Carney contributed. Updated at 1:16 p.m.