Republicans Plan New Offer to Biden; Wicker Sees $1 Trillion
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Republicans are planning to make a new overture to President Joe Biden on infrastructure spending, and said they’ll continue trying this week to strike a bipartisan deal after rejecting the White House’s latest counteroffer of $1.7 trillion as too costly.
“We’re not going to walk away,” said West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the lead Republican negotiator.
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker said that the GOP would be willing to spend $1 trillion over eight years -- a figure well above what they said past. He said Republicans are “fleshing out the numbers” and hopes to have “a sensible offer” by the end of the week.
Capito said she would be meeting with her colleagues over the next day to determine what the offer would be.
Administration officials have said that failing to act on the plan for the biggest infrastructure package in years is not an option, and that they would consider bypassing the GOP to pass Biden’s plan using the budget process if no bipartisan agreement can be found soon.
On Friday, Biden reduced his proposal by more than $500 billion from an initial $2.25 trillion by lowering spending on roads, bridges and broadband and saying he is willing to make investments in the manufacturing sector in separate bills -- like the China-focused legislation on the Senate floor this week.
“I thought that was a disappointing offer on their part, but I still think there’s an opportunity to continue to talk this week and hope we can get to a better place,” Missouri Senator Roy Blunt said on Monday.
Blunt said that one possibility would be to use a separate bipartisan agreement in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee over the weekend to spend $304 billion on highways and transit as the seed of a larger deal. That agreement was sealed by Capito and the committee chairman, Tom Carper of Delaware, a close Biden ally. It does not contain a method to pay for the spending, however.
Congressional Democrats meantime are prepared to go it alone if no deal is forthcoming.
“We’re getting down to decision time. We can’t put this off indefinitely,” said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat. “They’re still pretty far apart,” he said. “We just have to decide whether bipartisanship is going to work, and be honest if it isn’t.”
The GOP’s Capito said that after a meeting earlier this month with Biden, she had come away expecting Biden to drop demands for social spending such as child and elder care as part of the package as well as demands for corporate tax increases. She said such an that was key to any deal.
“When we came out of the president’s meeting with him, we thought we had an understanding his social infrastructure is off. They didn’t take any of that off,” she said. “And that you know, we couldn’t do it by raising taxes. They still have that in there.”
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that the GOP had only increased their offer for new spending on infrastructure by $50 billion, to $225 billion from $175 billion.
“The ball is in the Republicans’ court,” she said. “Our concessions went 10 times as far as theirs.”
The two parties have been defining the size of the package differently, with Republicans including money already expected to be in the spending pipeline. The GOP senators characterized their initial offer as $568 billion.
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