President Joe Biden and a group of senior Republican senators continued their infrastructure talks Thursday and emerged from a White House meeting sounding optimistic that a bipartisan deal could be reached — or that, at the very least, both sides were talking in good faith.
“We had a very, very good meeting,” Biden told reporters afterward. “It was great to be back with so many of the colleagues that I had served with in the Senate and I am very optimistic that we can reach a reasonable agreement. Even if we don’t it’s been a good faith effort.”
Biden said he had laid out his plans and how they should be paid for and that Republicans would come back with another counteroffer. He said the two sides would talk again next week.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the GOP point person in the infrastructure talks, also said the talks were productive. “We did talk specifics, and the president has asked us to come back and rework an offer so that he can then react to that and then reoffer to us,” she said. “We’re very encouraged, we feel very committed to the bipartisanship that we think this infrastructure package can carry forward.”
Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi also attended the meeting, as did Vice President Kamala Harris, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The bottom line: The two sides still have serious, fundamental differences over the size, scope and pay-fors of an infrastructure plan, but the continuing talks next week could provide some indication of whether a deal can be reached. “We all know we need to move pretty quickly here,” Blunt said.
Biden is looking for significant progress by Memorial Day, and he indicated in an interview with MSNBC Wednesday that, while he wants to strike a bipartisan deal on portions of his proposed spending packages, he’s also willing to move ahead without GOP support as needed. "Let's see if we can get an agreement to kickstart this,” he said, “and then fight over what's left and see if I can get it done without Republicans, if need be."