August 18, 2022

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, gestures during a daily press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on May 21, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – White House staff working on a bipartisan infrastructure deal made a counter-offer to Republican senators on Friday, cutting the Biden administration’s original proposal by $ 600 billion.

Within hours, these Republicans tossed cold water on the new proposal, saying the sides now seemed “further apart” after the apparent progress in the negotiations.

The latest offer would cost $ 1.7 trillion over a decade, according to a White House memo to West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who leads negotiations for the GOP.

To reduce the original plan from $ 2.3 trillion to $ 1.7 trillion, the White House agrees:

  • Shift funding for research and development, small business and supply chain improvements from this package to separate laws being discussed in Congress.
  • Reduce rural broadband funding from its original $ 100 billion offering to $ 65 billion. This would be in line with the Republicans’ proposal for expanded broadband funding.
  • Reduction of new funding requests for “roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects” from an original USD 159 billion to USD 120 billion.

The memo said that Biden hoped the proposed changes to his original offer would “fuel further bipartisan cooperation and progress”.

It was immediately apparent, however, that little progress had been made over the past week on the basic elements of a bill. This includes the basic definition of “infrastructure” and the payment mechanisms.

Republicans have proposed their own $ 568 billion infrastructure bill, with an emphasis on hard infrastructure, rural broadband, and transit.

In the Biden counteroffer, these are all areas that would be shortened.

An aide for Moore Capito responded to the offer in a statement Friday, calling the White House proposal “well beyond the realm of what Congress can do with bipartisan support”.

“After today’s meeting, the groups seem further apart after two meetings with White House staff than they did after meeting President Biden,” she said.

The White House memo is more conspicuous for what it does not want to compromise than for what it does.

For example, the White House hasn’t stepped back from the $ 400 billion Biden proposed to fund home and community elderly care. Republicans argue that this does not fit the definition of “infrastructure”.

Biden’s offering also includes information on his proposed funding for electric vehicles, veterans hospitals, and labor training, all of which have been questioned by Republicans.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the counter-proposal “the art of searching for common ground.”

The White House presented the counteroffer to Republican senators during a video conference that began shortly after lunch on Friday.

The White House team consists of Advisor to President Steve Ricchetti, Director of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

At the end of the second week of formal negotiations, Republicans and Democrats seem no closer to a bipartisan compromise than they were at the beginning.

On the pay side, the White House counteroffer also includes one of the GOP’s red line problems: an increase in the corporate tax rate.

Senate Minority Chairman Mitch McConnell said any infrastructure plan that included a corporate tax increase would be opposed by the entire Republican caucus.