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 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 key 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, still 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.
On Saturday, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Biden made “a reasonable offer to find bipartisan common ground … The ball is now in their court to respond with a counteroffer in good faith.”
But the White House memo is also notable for what Biden does not compromise on.
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.
On the pay side, the White House counteroffer still contains one of the GOP’s 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.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki described Friday’s counterproposal as “the art of looking for common ground.”
Biden’s negotiators presented the counteroffer to Republican senators during a video conference that began shortly after lunch on Friday.
The White House team consisted of Presidential Advisor Steve Ricchetti, Legislative Director Louisa Terrell, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
As the second week of formal negotiations ended on Friday, Republicans and Democrats seemed no closer to a bipartisan compromise than they were at the beginning.