President Biden met again with a top Senate Republican negotiator Wednesday in hopes of a bipartisan agreement on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, but the gulf between the White House and GOP lawmakers remains wide.
During the meeting with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Biden reportedly said he wants $1 trillion in new spending and corporate tax changes to help pay for it. Capito’s latest GOP-endorsed $928 billion offer only includes $257 billion in new spending and no new taxes to offset the cost. Biden did offer a significant concession in the meeting, however, which would be to establish a new, minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent, aimed at dozens of huge corporations that pay little to nothing to the federal government currently. Biden would still pursue raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent outside of the infrastructure deal.
Capito and Biden are scheduled to speak again tomorrow and Republican negotiators are considering yet another counter-offer but the White House has signaled that time is running out on the back-and-forth negotiations.
“Patience is not unending, and he wants to make progress,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday. “His only line in the sand is inaction. He wants to sign a bill into law this summer.”
Capito’s office issued a statement yesterday after she briefed Republican negotiators on the conversation with Biden.
“Senator Capito reiterated to the president her desire to work together to reach an infrastructure agreement that can pass Congress in a bipartisan way. She also stressed the progress that the Senate has already made,” the statement said. “Senator Capito is encouraged that negotiations have continued.”
Capito has been in close contact with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) during the negotiations and the Senate’s GOP leader has made clear his opposition to the size and scope of Biden’s proposal. Republicans have suggested other funding options, most recently hundreds of billions of dollars in unspent COVID-19 relief funds, but the White House is not warm on that idea.
Absent a bipartisan deal, Senate Democrats will seek to advance Biden’s infrastructure and jobs bill on their own using the budget reconciliation process, but that will require all 50 Senate Democrats to approve the legislation and Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie vote. To get there, Democratic leaders will need to convince centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to get on board. Manchin has considerable leverage in the discussions and has said repeatedly he does not want to raise the corporate tax rate above 25 percent.
“The bill, basically, is not going to end up that way,” Manchin said last month. “If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere.”