President Biden said Monday that he is "prepared to compromise" on his $2.25 trillion tax and spending plan ahead of a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, all of whom are former governors or mayors.
"As I indicated earlier, I am prepared to compromise, prepared to see what we can do and what we can get together on," Biden said in the Oval Office at the meeting's onset. "It's a big package, but there are a lot of needs."
Attendees included Sens. John Hickenlooper, D-Col., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Angus King, I-Maine, Mitt Romney, R-Utah and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., as well as Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Carlos Giménez, R-Fla., Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Norma Torres, D-Calif.
The meeting is the latest that Biden has held with lawmakers across the political aisle over the economic proposal, dubbed the American Jobs Plan. The measure calls for billions of dollars in new funding for roads and bridges, as well as transit systems, water infrastructure, broadband access, hospitals and elder care. The plan would be paid for over 15 years by raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and imposing a higher global minimum rate on U.S. businesses.
But some Senate Republicans have criticized the plan as too wide-ranging in what it deems to be infrastructure and are drafting a counteroffer that's expected to cost somewhere around $650 billion.
It's unclear how such a measure would be paid for, although Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, suggested that it may involve user fees. One possibility that he floated last week is increasing the federal gas tax.
"I've noticed that everyone's for infrastructure," Biden said. "The question is who's gonna pay for it. That's what we're going to try to work out today."
With narrow majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats have the option to circumvent Republicans and pass the measure on a party-line voting using a procedural tool known as budget reconciliation. But some moderate members, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have indicated they want to pursue a bipartisan deal first.
Some Democrats have floated the possibility of approving a narrower, bipartisan bill that's focused on traditional infrastructure issues before pivoting to a broader package that would be passed without any GOP support.
Asked whether the White House is supportive of slashing the proposal to about $800 billion, press secretary Jen Psaki said the president is weighing a number of different options.
"We're quite open to a range of mechanisms for agreed-upon legislation moving forward, smaller packages, pieces being peeled off," Psaki said on Monday. "In terms of what the package or size looks like, we’re just not quite there yet."