Sen. Mike Braun said he seriously doubts the Wednesday meeting between Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and President Biden will lead to a compromise on infrastructure, throwing cold water on negotiations both sides say are productive.
The fact that Braun, R-Ind., made the comments just hours before Capito, R-W.Va., is set to meet with Biden is notable. He said he is concerned that the president and Senate Republicans are still too far apart after weeks of negotiations and that Democrats will eventually abandon bipartisan efforts for a Democrat-only spending bill.
"You look at [the White House] going from $2.5 trillion down to 2.3, now, they're coming all the way to 1.7," Braun told FOX Business. "And if you recall, we were at $568 billion on infrastructure, as we normally define it. That has been bumped up to just under a trillion."
"My prediction is, since that's not where they want it to go, it'll be very similar to the song and dance we saw on the COVID relief bill," he added. "They're going to do what they did the first time, say they engaged, we had a real robust conversation. You probably won't get a Republican vote for it and there won't be anything in it that reflects what we'd like to do. "
Braun specifically said a major sticking point is that "less than 10%" of the administration's infrastructure proposal is hard infrastructure, which he said is similar to the president's coronavirus relief bill.
A Fox News analysis found that closer to a third of the president's initial proposal went toward hard infrastructure – more than Republicans say but still well under half in what is billed ostensibly as an infrastructure plan.
Braun's comments strike a significantly more pessimistic tone than others who have been involved in the negotiations in recent weeks.
Capito said on "Fox News Sunday" that "I think we can get to real compromise absolutely because we're both still in the game… The president told me himself let's… get this done."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week she was "encouraged" by Republicans' latest proposal, despite reservations about how the GOP plans to fund their proposed spending.
"It sounds like it’s moving in a very positive way, that's great," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said of the GOP proposal Thursday.
But there is still about a $800 billion gap between the parties after weeks of talks, a reality Braun said is likely to doom efforts for compromise.
"I don't know how you bridge the gap when you both have come a long way and you still have an $800 billion gap," Braun said. "This is such a wide gulf, I don't see it happening."
Braun also claimed that the White House's proposal for raising taxes to pay for the infrastructure bill is "probably not going to happen" and that even if it did "it wouldn't cover even a small portion of this new spending that we're talking about, let alone our structural deficits."
Some Democrats have been advocating for the Biden administration to abandon talks with Republicans and pass a massive spending bill without GOP votes under budget reconciliation.
"Mitch McConnell has already said that 100% of his focus is on blocking the Biden agenda," Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., tweeted last week about the Republican Senate leader. "So why are we negotiating with Republicans for a smaller infrastructure plan? Now is the time to GO BIG."
Budget reconciliation is a process that allows the Senate majority to circumvent a minority filibuster, which would let Democrats pass a spending bill with only Democrat votes. Democrats say the Senate parliamentarian gave them the green light to do that multiple times in a year, though the logistics of such a move are still unclear.
The politics of it could be even harder to manage, however, especially after weeks of infrastructure negotiations that most involved say have the potential to be fruitful, despite Braun's comments.
Democrats would need all 50 members of their Senate conference on board with such a move for it to succeed. That would include Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., both of whom might recoil at the prospect of abandoning bipartisanship on this issue.
Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is keeping that door open, lending credence to Braun's fears that Democrats could leave Republicans behind on infrastructure.
"Reconciliation is certainly a serious consideration to get that big, bold action if we can't get it with Republicans," Schumer said Friday.
FOX Business' Edward Lawrence and Megan Henney, and Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich contributed to this report.