Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., the GOP’s lead infrastructure negotiator, met with President Biden on Wednesday as next week an informal deadline approaches for attempting a bipartisan deal. J. Scott Applewhite / AP Hide caption
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
President Biden and Senate Republicans have agreed to continue negotiations on an infrastructure spending plan despite ongoing divisions over the scope of the proposal and how it will be paid.
Biden received Senator Shelley Moore Capito, RW.Va., the GOP’s lead infrastructure negotiator, at the White House on Wednesday, and the couple agreed to meet again Friday as the window for a bipartisan deal seems to be narrowing.
The Biden administration is aiming for a deal this summer and some Democrats are calling on the president to finalize the bipartisan talks.
“This afternoon the President received Senator Capito for a constructive and frank discussion in the Oval Office about how we can drive economic growth and benefit the American middle class by investing in our infrastructure,” said a White House statement.
During the hour-long meeting on Wednesday, Capito and Biden discussed the latest, $ 928 billion proposal by Republicans. Kelley Moore, a spokeswoman for Moore Capito, said the GOP negotiating team would meet before the meeting on Friday.
“Senator Capito reaffirmed her desire to the president to work together to reach an infrastructure deal that can pass bipartisan through Congress,” Moore said in a statement. “She also highlighted the progress that the Senate has already made. Senator Capito is encouraged that negotiations have continued.”
The White House meeting on Wednesday was the latest attempt to put Republicans and Democrats in a manageable space for real negotiations on infrastructure policy. So far, the two sides have been stuck in the early stages of talks, with nearly $ 1 trillion separating their proposals. They also failed to agree on what should be included in an infrastructure law.
The price disagreement was only partially resolved last week when GOP Senators increased the overall size of their offering. Democrats were frustrated that Republicans were investing hundreds of billions of dollars in investments that Congress was already planning. All of the new money in the latest GOP plan is $ 257 billion, a tiny fraction of what Biden has proposed.
Republicans also plan to pay for the expense by reusing funds that Congress has already approved for coronavirus relief programs. This idea is a non-starter for the vast majority of Democrats.
The White House told reporters last week that about 95% of the previous $ 3 trillion COVID aid was either committed as early as March, or earmarked for the paycheck protection program, unemployment insurance, or food aid.
“Of the remaining 5%, the largest categories of no-fault assets are in the Healthcare Provider Assistance Fund – funding for rural hospitals, healthcare providers and small business catastrophe loans,” a White House official said.
Instead, Biden is focused on raising taxes for high earners and corporations.
Republicans are urging Democrats to remove social programs such as childcare and elderly care funding and environmental protection elements from infrastructure talks and pursue them as separate legislation.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Fox News on Sunday that the disagreement over how to categorize elements of Biden’s plan was “philosophical,” arguing that the elements that the GOP opposes should remain on any infrastructure plan.
“We see it as infrastructure because infrastructure is the foundation that enables people to participate in the economy,” said Buttigieg. “When you care for a loved one, you do some of these things because you don’t have the proper care structure to look after them, and you can’t even get a job because you’re in this elderly care situation – because we Somehow one of the few developed countries that doesn’t care – that holds you back as much as it holds you back when you don’t have a road or bridge to get where you want to go. “
The Democrats could choose to package the more controversial provisions of their plan as separate legislation, but that would risk angering elements of their own grassroots, whose votes will be necessary to get any legislation through the narrowly divided House and Senate.