Biden Slashes Cost of His Infrastructure Plan in New Offer to Republicans

Biden Slashes Cost of His Infrastructure Plan in New Offer to Republicans

Brian Snyder

The Biden administration has reduced the size of its infrastructure proposal by more than half a trillion dollars, the White House announced Friday.

Speaking to reporters, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that as part of ongoing negotiations with Republican lawmakers, the proposal has been cut to $1.7 trillion, down from the initial $2.25 offer released at the end of March. The new offer was presented to Republican negotiators via teleconference on Friday afternoon.

“This proposal exhibits a willingness to come down in size, giving on some areas that are important to the president — otherwise they wouldn’t have been in the proposal — while also staying firm in areas that are most vital to rebuilding our infrastructure and industries of the future, making our workforce and our country more competitive with China,” Psaki said. She the latest White House proposal “a reasonable counter-offer” to the significantly smaller Republican plan totaling $568 billion, including existing spending.

The cuts to the White House proposal touch on many areas, Psaki said, and include the elimination of investments in research and development, manufacturing and small business, leaving those issues to be targeted in separate legislation. The proposed spending on broadband has been reduced from $100 billion to $65 billion, the same level as in the GOP offer, and funding for roads and bridges has been cut from $159 billion to $120 billion to get closer to the $48 billion level discussed by Republicans.

At the same time, Psaki emphasized that the White House is sticking with plans to use the bill to invest areas that Republicans say are beyond the scope of infrastructure, including green energy, workforce training and extreme weather resilience, areas that Biden sees as crucial for maintaining competitiveness with China.

The White House also said that the president wants to fund his plan through higher taxes on big business, with the corporate income tax rising from 21% to somewhere between 25% and 28%, and is not interested in the Republican proposal to raise revenues through user fees such as highway tolls.

Hopes for a deal fade: Biden’s self-imposed deadline of Memorial Day for showing progress in the talks is rapidly approaching, but Republican negotiators said they were unimpressed by the size and scope of the new offer, and are still strongly opposed to using tax hikes to pay for infrastructure investments.

“During today's call, the White House came back with a counteroffer that is well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support,” the spokesperson for lead Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (WV) said. “There continue to be vast differences between the White House and Senate Republicans when it comes to the definition of infrastructure, the magnitude of proposed spending, and how to pay for it. Based on today's meeting, the groups seem further apart after two meetings with White House staff than they were after one meeting with President Biden” last week.

Talks are expected to continue next week, but Biden has said he is prepared to move ahead without Republican support if necessary.