Biden to Meet GOP Senators for Infrastructure Talks on Thursday

President Joe Biden will hold a meeting next week with six GOP senators as he looks to build bipartisan support for his sweeping American Jobs Plan, the $2.25 trillion “infrastructure” package that Republicans have thus far panned as too pricey and packed with spending unrelated to fixing the nation’s roads and bridges.

A White House official told reporters Friday that Biden will meet Thursday with Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

“The president appreciates their engagement and the ongoing dialogue on this high priority, and is looking forward to speaking with the group,” the official said, striking a similar tone as when Biden thanked Republicans for putting forward a counter proposal to his infrastructure plan, while calling for bipartisan talks and “deep discussions.”

Capito has led a group of Senate Republicans in unveiling a $568 billion infrastructure counterproposal to Biden’s plan, saying at an April 22 press conference that the GOP defines the concept more narrowly, as “core infrastructure, physical infrastructure.” She shared an overview of the GOP proposal in a tweet, in which she said that Biden’s plan “goes beyond what constitutes infrastructure.”

moore capito
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) listens during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 20, 2020. (Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images)

The Biden administration has sought to frame “infrastructure” far more broadly, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) telling reporters at an April 15 presser that for the American Jobs Plan to meet its aims, “you have to have human infrastructure to go with it.”

Pelosi will be among the Congressional leaders that Biden is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, one day before he meets with the Republican senators. The White House official said the president will hold a meeting with Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to discuss his $2.25 trillion proposal.

“They will have a dialogue about policy areas of mutual agreement and identifying common ground on which they can work together and deliver results on the challenges facing American families,” the White House official said.

McConnell has been sharply critical of Biden’s sweeping plan, calling the package “misleadingly titled legislation.”

“The White House has lumped together a motley assortment of the left’s priciest priorities,” McConnell said on the Senate floor on April 13. “Less than six percent of this proposal goes to roads and bridges. It’s not remotely targeted toward what Americans think they are getting when politicians campaign on infrastructure.

“But instead of coming up with a better bill, Democrats have decided it’s the English language that has to change. They are embarking on an Orwellian campaign to convince everybody that any government policy whatsoever can be labeled infrastructure.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks to the media after the Republican leaders’ weekly lunch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on March 23, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Biden and Capito spoke last week on infrastructure, with the White House saying in a statement to reporters that the two “had a warm, friendly conversation and continued their dialogue about infrastructure and jobs, reiterating their willingness to negotiate,” adding that they also discussed having another in-person meeting in the near future.

Republicans are fighting to slim down the multi-trillion-dollar package that they say contains provisions that have little to do with infrastructure. They are also apprehensive about rolling back Trump-era tax cuts, which is a key feature of Biden’s plan. To pay for the infrastructure plan, the White House is proposing to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from the current 21 percent.

Biden traveled to the Republican stronghold of Louisiana on Thursday to sell his American Jobs Plan, while signaling a willingness to back off on some of his demands.

“I’m willing to hear ideas from both sides,” Biden said. ”I’m ready to compromise. What I’m not ready to do is, I’m not ready to do nothing,” the president added.

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Tom Ozimek
Author: Tom Ozimek

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