WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and Republicans entered the weekend strongly at odds over how to craft an infrastructure deal that could satisfy their camps, jeopardizing the odds of a bipartisan deal.
Democrat Biden rejected a new proposal from top Republican infrastructure negotiator, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, which increased spending by about $ 50 billion over his last offer, the White House said.
Biden rejected the offer, saying it “did not meet its goals of growing the economy, addressing the climate crisis and creating new jobs.”
Republicans had previously offered roughly $ 257 billion in new spending, less than the $ 2.25 trillion that Biden initially offered and suggested he could cut it down to just $ 1 trillion.
And while the two sides agreed to speak again Monday, the White House also strongly noted that they can seek a way forward with other Republican lawmakers or even just Democrats.
“He indicated to Senator Capito that he would continue to involve various senators in both parties in hopes of achieving a more substantial package,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Until now, Capito has been Biden’s main negotiating partner. Monday’s conversation will be the third in a week.
Biden is eager to show he made a good faith effort at a bipartisan deal, sources said, but risks creating division among Democrats, some who believe he is giving in too much to Republicans. Democrats have narrow majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
A Capito spokesperson offered scant details of what was discussed in the call, saying they “continued to negotiate” and discussed the views of both parties.
Friday’s call showed that serious obstacles remain to bipartisan negotiations, even just two days after Biden presented his largest concession yet.
Biden offered to drop his plan to raise corporate tax rates up to 28% during an Oval Office meeting with Capito, the sources said, replacing it with a minimum tax rate of 15% aimed at ensuring all businesses pay taxes.
Republican leaders see corporate tax increases to fund the construction of roads, bridges, water pipes and other projects as an obstacle.
Biden could now choose to strike a deal that includes the bulk of his wish list that, at best, could only secure the backing of his fellow Democrats.
Doing so would require seeking a party-line “reconciliation” vote. Reconciliation circumvents Senate rules that effectively require 60 votes to pass most laws.
But Biden’s individual sessions between Biden and Capito are increasingly testing the patience of Liberal Democrats by diluting their goals and delaying legislative action in the period before Congress goes into recess for the summer vacation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal courted by the White House, said Republicans have passed massive tax cuts without bipartisan support and that he sees no reason why Democrats couldn’t move forward in a similar way.
“Please don’t tell me we can’t use the same tools to help workers,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.
A group of young activists from the Sunrise Movement, who wants to stop climate change and create jobs, gathered outside the White House on Friday to protest what they called Biden’s broken promises and to please Republicans.
“We are demanding that you stop working with the Republican Party, meet with us, and approve the largest and most robust infrastructure package you can,” said Ellen Sciales, 24, a Sunrise member. Movement that was consulted by Biden’s presidential campaign.
House lawmakers have already begun work on a bill that may end as a one-party effort. Biden called on the Democratic leader of a congressional committee working on that bill, Peter DeFazio, to “offer his support” for that initial work, Psaki said.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had said the White House views Monday, when Congress returns from a week-long recess, as a critical date to see progress in the talks.
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki stopped Friday by declaring any deadline.
“We are going to keep a number of roads open,” he told reporters. (Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; additional reporting by Merdie Nzanga, Jarrett Renshaw, David Shepardson, Richard Cowan, and Susan Cornwell; edited by Peter Cooney / Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)