President Joe Biden on Tuesday cut off stalled infrastructure talks with Senate Republicans after the two sides failed to reach agreement on the appropriate size of a spending package or how to pay for it. The White House said the Biden would shift his focus to ongoing negotiations among a separate, bipartisan group of 20 senators — and have congressional Democrats prepare to move infrastructure legislation on their own.
“The president is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer, and is pursuing multiple paths to get this done,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Capito talks crumble: The writing has long been on the wall: The talks between the White House and Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) were never likely to reach a deal, and the two sides never really got close. They were hundreds of billions of dollars apart on proposed new spending and failed to find much common ground on how to pay for any package, with Republicans rejecting Biden’s calls for tax increases.
Biden spoke briefly with Capito on Tuesday and reportedly decided to cut off talks after the Republican and her Senate GOP colleagues rejected to increase the level of new spending in their plan or specify ways to pay for it.
“He informed Senator Capito today that the latest offer from her group did not, in his view, meet the essential needs of our country to restore our roads and bridges, prepare us for our clean energy future, and create jobs,” Psaki said. “He offered his gratitude to her for her efforts and good faith conversations, but expressed his disappointment that, while he was willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by only $150 billion.”
Capito said she was disappointed by Biden’s decision. “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,” she said in a statement. “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.”
Plan B for Bipartisanship: Psaki said that Biden had also spoken with Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) on Tuesday and urged them to continue developing their bipartisan infrastructure proposal. Biden said he will talk to members of the group working on an infrastructure plan while on his week-long trip to Europe and he designated administration officials to meet with the group.
The group of 20 senators reportedly has yet to agree on a proposal, but some members, led by Sinema and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), have reportedly agreed on a spending level and how to pay for it. “One senator in the group said that it has agreed to more than $900 billion over eight years,” Bloomberg News reports.
Plan C: Biden is also laying the groundwork for Democrats to try to pass an infrastructure package on their own. Psaki said that Biden spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about moving legislation through the House this month — and talked with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about the need to start the budget resolution process that would enable Democrats to pass a package on their own. “We’re pursuing two tracks: one bipartisan and one reconciliation,” Schumer said, according to Bloomberg.