WASHINGTON (WOWK/AP)—According to West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito, infrastructure talks between President Joe Biden and Republican leaders have stalled. Capito is a Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Biden has started reaching out to senators from both parties as he strives to build bipartisan compromise on his top legislative priority.
The president is walking away from talks with Capito, who is the lead Republican negotiator, after the two spoke Tuesday, according to an administration official granted anonymity to discuss the private thinking. The president’s view is that she negotiated in good faith and he would welcome her in the bipartisan talks, the official said.
The breakdown comes as the two sides could not broker the divide over the scope of the president’s sweeping infrastructure investment and how to pay for it.
Republicans offered a $928 billion proposal, which included about $330 billion in new spending — but not as much as Biden’s $1.7 trillion investment proposal for rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, highways and other infrastructure, including VA hospitals and care centers.
The talks broke down over two core issues, the official said. The Republican senators could not come up significantly in the dollar amount of new investment or devise specific ways to pay for it.
Biden rejected the GOP senators’ suggestion of tapping unspent COVID-19 money to fund the new infrastructure spending.
At the same time, Biden has begun reaching out to other senators, including Republicans who are part of a bipartisan group with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, that is meeting later Tuesday at the Capitol to negotiate a fresh proposal.
The president is expected to engage with lawmakers while he sets out this week on his first foreign trip for an economic summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in Europe.
Capito released the following statement after President Biden ended infrastructure negotiations:
“I spoke with the president this afternoon, and he ended our infrastructure negotiations. As Republicans, we believe in our nation’s infrastructure, which is why our negotiating team—which consisted of the Ranking Members from the committees of jurisdiction—consistently worked in good faith with President Biden and were optimistic that we could reach a bipartisan agreement for the sake of the country. Throughout our negotiations, we engaged respectfully, fully, and very candidly—delivering several serious counteroffers that each represented the largest infrastructure investment Republicans have put forth.
“In our discussions with the president, he himself made it clear that he was willing to accept an offer around $1 trillion, that baseline spending would and could be included, and that a plan could stretch over an 8-year period of time. The president also understood one of our red lines, which was not undoing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which has helped so many Americans. Our latest offer, coupled with legislation the Senate is expected to pass today, would have exceeded the president’s threshold.
“Despite the progress we made in our negotiations, the president continued to respond with offers that included tax increases as his pay for, instead of several practical options that would have not been harmful to individuals, families, and small businesses.
“While I appreciate President Biden’s willingness to devote so much time and effort to these negotiations, he ultimately chose not to accept the very robust and targeted infrastructure package, and instead, end our discussions. However, this does not mean bipartisanship isn’t feasible. The Senate EPW Committee continues to demonstrate bipartisan action on infrastructure. In a one-month period, our committee passed a bipartisan water and wastewater infrastructure bill out of the Senate and passed a surface transportation bill unanimously out of committee. Moving forward, I will continue building on this momentum and working with my colleagues to advance bipartisan solutions like these.
“After negotiating in good faith and making significant progress to move closer to what the president wanted, I am disappointed by his decision.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.