President Joe Biden (C) and Vice President Kamala Harris (L) meet with Republican Senator from West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito (R), and Republican Senator Mike Crapo from Idaho (frontL) for an in the Oval Office of the White House Infrastructure bill to be discussed in Washington, DC on May 13, 2021.
Nicholas Comb | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said he had a “very, very good meeting” Thursday with a group of senior Republican senators on a bipartisan infrastructure deal and plans to see them again at the White House next week for further discussion.
Senior Republican Senator working on a deal with Biden, West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, also said they had made real progress.
The Senators attending the Oval Office meeting all serve as senior members of committees responsible for infrastructure. In addition to Moore Capito, Sens. John Barrasso from Wyoming, Roy Blunt from Missouri, Mike Crapo from Idaho, Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker, Senator Senator from Mississippi, attended the meeting.
“It was great to be back with so many colleagues I have worked with in the Senate and I am very optimistic that we can reach a reasonable deal,” said Biden at an event in the rose garden after the meeting.
“We didn’t compromise on anything, we set out what we should do and how it should be paid, and my Senate colleagues came back to me and said they’ll be back.” with a counter offer about what they are ready and how to fund it, and then we’ll talk about it again next week, “Biden said.
There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic that Biden, an accomplished dealmaker, can reach an agreement with the Republicans on some infrastructure proposals, especially if he agrees to split the massive US $ 1.8 trillion employment plan package in two or split up more separate bills.
After the meeting, Moore Capito also said that both sides had made real progress. She said Biden asked Republicans to revise a previous counteroffer for his American employment plan and bring it back to him so he could make his own counteroffer.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito speaks to CNBC’s John Harwood.
Mary Stevens | CNBC
“We had a very productive one [meeting], more than polite give and take, “she said.” We discussed the details and the President asked us to come back and revise an offer so that he could respond and then offer us again. We are very encouraged and deeply committed to the non-partisanship, which we believe can drive this infrastructure package forward. ”
Blunt said it was “a really positive meeting … I think we can go back with another offer for the first part of the week, and I think he will make a counter offer to that. And we all know we have to move.” ” pretty quick here. ”
In a statement, Toomey, he believes, “Congress and the Biden government can come together and pass bipartisan law that responsibly bolsters federal support for our roads, bridges, ports and airports.”
However, significant differences of opinion persist over the core elements of an infrastructure bill, including what “infrastructure” means.
Biden’s proposal calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for traditional infrastructure projects like road and bridge repairs.
In addition, billions more are earmarked for expanding the power grid, strengthening the supply of older and disabled Americans, investing in affordable housing and expanding broadband access. Republicans have taken Biden’s expansive definition of “infrastructure” to oppose much of his proposal.
Moore Capito said the senators and the president recognized where they had differences but did not address them.
“I do not say [Biden] agrees with it or with everything. That is the point of a negotiation here. He understands why we turned some things off. If he tries to rethink us, that’s part of a negotiation. I think he got our point. He understands what we think modern infrastructure is, including broadband, and how big that package could be. “
Democrats and Republicans also remain far apart on how to pay for the much-needed infrastructure investments.
Democrats have so far rejected a Republican proposal to fund the plan through user fees. White House officials said this was a tax hike for middle-class Americans who drive.
Instead, the Democrats are proposing to raise the corporate tax rate and fill in gaps that would effectively mean corporations and the richest Americans are paying for the plan.
Republicans say changes to the low tax rates set in their 2017 tax cut bill are no novice.
Cars and trucks are guided into the right lane by two trucks with light arrows on Interstate 78 with a “Work Zone” sign in the foreground. The need for safety in work areas on roads was highlighted during a PennDOT press conference off Interstate 78 in the Greenwich community on Tuesday morning, April 27, 2021.
Ben Hasty | MediaNews Group | Getty Images
Moore Capito said the senators had not discussed details with Biden about how to pay for the improvements.
The president has set an unofficial Memorial Day deadline to reach an agreement with Republicans, or at least make significant progress on an agreement.
The meeting on Thursday was the most positive step so far in achieving Biden’s goal of developing a non-partisan infrastructure package.
“The attitude the President had in the Oval Office was very supportive and very keen to get a deal done. And I think we all reflected that too,” said Moore Capito.
If Biden fails to reach a bipartisan compromise on the plan, he and Congress Democrats have announced that they will use the budget vote to pass an infrastructure package for a purely party-political vote that only requires 51 votes in the Senate.