The White House is done trying to negotiate on infrastructure with a group of Republicans after weeks of talks between President Joe Biden’s administration and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) came to an unceremonious end Tuesday.
The administration is now turning its attention toward a broader bipartisan group of 20 senators, which includes Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), as they continue to seek at least some GOP support for an infrastructure package.
The administration also said it was working with Democratic leaders in Congress to ensure passage of an infrastructure package this summer, aiming to alleviate anger from progressives eager for the White House to give up hope on reaching a deal with the GOP.
Biden had a call with Capito Tuesday, after meeting with the lead Republican negotiator on infrastructure in the White House last week — a conversation that Capito said was the end of talks between the two parties.
“I spoke with the president this afternoon, and he ended our infrastructure negotiations,” Capito said.
Republicans had offered a plan half the size of what the White House has proposed on infrastructure, one that included far less in new federal spending on infrastructure projects. It also did not address key priorities sought by Democrats on climate, housing and elder care.
White House officials said Biden had been willing to cut more than $1 trillion in spending from his original proposal, while Republicans had only offered $150 billion in new spending since the start of negotiations.
Biden “informed Senator Capito today that the latest offer from her group did not, in his view, meet the essential needs of our country to restore our roads and bridges, prepare us for our clean energy future, and create jobs,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
In the end, Republicans refused to engage on major tax provisions — like an increased corporate tax rate — that the Biden administration initially wanted to see in the bill. Biden, meanwhile, made a major concession: offering to leave the current, historically low corporate tax rate intact in exchange for a minimum corporate tax rate.
The White House is now shifting gears to negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators who are working an alternative compromise on infrastructure. But that group, which is meeting on Tuesday, is said to be discussing an even smaller proposal that excludes the same kind of Democratic priorities Biden was pushing for in his talks with Capito. The group of 20 senators also worked, but ultimately failed to reach a compromise, on coronavirus relief late last year.
The administration did emphasize it is preparing for Democrat-only infrastructure legislation, which has always been the most likely outcome. Biden spoke with both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday, saying they were coordinating to pass legislation in the House this month and move it to the Senate floor in July.
“The president is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer,” Psaki reiterated in a statement.
Schumer told reporters on Tuesday that Democrats were proceeding with both tracks.
“It may well be that part of the bill that will pass will be bipartisan and part of it might be reconciliation, but we’re not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill. We will just pursue two paths and, at some point, they will join,” Schumer said.
Already, progressive lawmakers in Congress are getting impatient with the bipartisan talks. On Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told reporters she believes the Senate should go ahead with a budget reconciliation package, which would allow Democrats to pass an infrastructure bill on party lines.
“So far, we’ve got nothing,” Warren said, of what has come out of bipartisan talks.
Several Democrats also voiced concerns after being briefed on the bipartisan negotiations in a caucus lunch on Tuesday, warning that continued dealing with Republicans would needlessly narrow the size of an infrastructure package.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) also tweeted Monday that he’s “very anxious” climate legislation will be completely left out of the negotiations, saying he senses “trouble.”
“Climate has fallen out of the infrastructure discussion, as it took its bipartisanship detour. It may not return,” Whitehouse wrote. “Don’t see the preparatory work for a close Senate climate vote taking place in the administration. Why not marshal business support?”