U.S. President Joe Biden (left) wears a protective mask while speaking with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, the United States, on Thursday, Jan.
TJ Kirkpatrick | Bloomberg | Getty Images
President Joe Biden will meet with Senator Shelley Moore Capito on Wednesday as the Democrats and GOP make one final push to forge a bipartisan infrastructure plan.
The president and Capito – a Republican from West Virginia who led her party’s talks with the Biden administration – will huddle in the White House to settle disputes over what they think should go into a plan and how the government should go about it to pay for the investment.
It is now unclear what both sides would accept as a compromise package to modernize American roads, bridges, airports, broadband and utilities, along with a host of other areas a proposal could address.
The meeting comes as Democrats begin to wonder whether the bipartisan effort can move forward or whether the party should adopt a sprawling infrastructure plan with specific budgetary rules on its own. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., told his group that the Democrats would pass an infrastructure bill “with or without” Republican support when they returned to Washington this month. He wants to pass a law in the summer.
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Sunday that he wanted to see a “clear direction” in the talks by next week. He told CNN that “negotiations cannot go on forever”.
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Republicans sent Biden a $ 928 billion infrastructure counteroffer last week. Funding falls far short of the $ 1.7 trillion plan proposed by the GOP President.
The Republican move does not include Biden priorities such as caring for the elderly and disabled Americans or upgrading homes and schools. The GOP plan also calls for the investment to be paid for through the reallocation of coronavirus relief funds decided earlier this year.
Republicans have resisted Biden’s push to raise the corporate tax rate to at least 25%, down from 21%, the level set as part of the 2017 GOP tax cuts. The White House also wants to crack down on tax avoidance by overseas corporations and individuals in the US to pay for the infrastructure.
With both sides criticizing the other’s proposed fundraising methods, it is unclear what would win bipartisan support.
Despite the gap between White House and Republican priorities, Capito was optimistic about the talks.
“I think we can absolutely compromise because we’re both still in the game,” she told Fox News on Sunday.
The Senator noted that the sides are still at odds over whether an infrastructure plan should go beyond transportation, broadband, and water systems. The Democrats have argued that a bill should invest in vocational training and care programs for dependent family members that will help more Americans return to work.
Biden’s infrastructure plan is the first part of his economic stimulus program. The second piece focuses on education, child care, and health care.
At least the second Biden proposal will likely have to be passed by the Democrats alone. The strategy brings its own challenges as Schumer would have to get all 50 members of his caucus to support a bill.
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