President Biden will meet with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the leading negotiator for a group of moderate Republicans seeking a bipartisan infrastructure deal, on Monday as the two sides strive to reach an agreement after months of back-and-forth.
The meeting comes just two days after Biden rejected an offer from Capito, R-W.Va., to add about $50 billion in new spending to the GOP counteroffer, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. Republicans previously put forward a $928 billion framework that included about $257 billion in new funding, while Biden had proposed a $1.7 trillion package.
Biden signaled that "he would continue to engage a number of senators in both parties in the hopes of achieving a more substantial package," after the latest discussion, Psaki said. "They agreed to speak again on Monday."
The two sides have struggled to overcome an ideological gulf on Biden's next big economic spending package and remain fiercely divided over the size and scope of the measure despite more than two months of negotiations.
Republicans have argued that Biden's proposal is too expensive and strays too far from "traditional" infrastructure, and have resisted any effort to roll back part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. To pay for the plans, Biden initially proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and imposing a higher global minimum on U.S. companies' foreign earnings.
In a major concession last week, the president offered to drop the corporate tax rate hike from the infrastructure proposal – and pursue it independently down the road – if Republicans agreed to $1 trillion in new spending and a global minimum tax rate of 15%.
With narrow majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats have the option to bypass Republicans and approve the measure on a party-line basis using a procedural tool known as budget reconciliation – a path that some progressives are pressuring Biden to take.
There are some signs the Biden administration is opening to acting unilaterally to pass an infrastructure bill if negotiations fall apart: During a press briefing last week, Psaki said there's "runway left" for negotiations with the coalition of Republicans, but pointed out "there are some realities of timelines" including "the fact that Congressman DeFazio is leading the markup of key components of the American Jobs Plan next week."
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., unveiled a bill on Friday that would invest $547 billion over five years in roads and bridges, as well as rail and other public transport. DeFazio, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, scheduled a markup of the bill for Wednesday. Biden spoke to DeFazio on Friday to "offer his support" for the markup, the process through which bills make their way through committees, Psaki said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has indicated that he wants to pass an infrastructure bill by July, whether or not support for the measure is bipartisan.
"The bottom line is very simple, that it has always been our plan regardless of the vehicle to work on an infrastructure bill in July," he said last week. "And that’s our plan, to move forward in July."