White House Pulls Plug on Capito Infrastructure Talks

June 9, 2021 by Dan McCue
In this March 16, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden waves from the top of the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden walked away from negotiations over an infrastructure bill with a group of Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R- W. Va., and now hopes to strike a deal with a separate, bipartisan group of senators.

The president and Capito have held sporadic one-on-one talks since last week, but on Tuesday, apparently, the distance between the two on a number of issues, including how to pay for the sweeping plan Biden envisions, was too great to continue.

After speaking for only a few minutes on Tuesday, Biden informed Capito “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 a clean energy future, and create jobs,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“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,” Psaki added.

Later, Capito issued a statement in which she said “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.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, was less diplomatic about the day’s turn of events.

“The president has made it clear that he has no intention of agreeing to a plan that addresses core, physical infrastructure,” Barrasso said.

Instead, he said, “President Biden and his team are trying to satisfy an insatiable far-left agenda that demands massive tax hikes, and spending trillions of dollars on things unrelated to physical infrastructure. 

“In return for our multiple, significant offers to invest in our roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways, the president continues to seek a massive tax and spend plan,” Barrasso continued.

“Republicans are serious about passing a responsible, targeted infrastructure plan that truly meets the needs of America, without adding the burdens of higher taxes, more federal debt, and job-killing regulations,” he said. “We are ready to work with Democrats who recognize a bipartisan agreement on physical infrastructure is possible.”

Biden will now attempt to negotiate a deal with a bipartisan group of 10 Republican and 10 Democratic senators, led by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

That group consists mainly of centrist members and has floated a larger, $900 billion infrastructure proposal that tilts more heavily toward traditional infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges, and does less on renewable energy and climate change than Biden’s plan does.

The biggest differences, however, continued to be on how to pay for the package.

Psaki said Biden spoke with members of the group on Tuesday, and “urged them to continue their work with other Democrats and Republicans to develop a bipartisan proposal that he hopes will be more responsive to the country’s pressing infrastructure needs. 

“The president said that he would be in contact with members of the group by phone while in Europe, and he designated his Jobs Cabinet and White House aides Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell, and Brian Deese to meet with them in person to advance this effort,” she added.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that the Democrats are “pursuing a two-path proposal” in which “part of the bill that’ll pass will be bipartisan and part of it will be through reconciliation.” The surface bill is likely the bipartisan part.

He said he plans to move forward with an infrastructure bill in the Senate in July, whether a deal between the two sides is reached or not.

Psaki also said Tuesday that Biden will be closely watching the markup of the surface transportation bill in the House on Wednesday.

The five-year, $547 billion measure covers highways, transit and rail. 

It also contains significant provisions intended to slow the effects of climate change, such as funding boosts for sustainable modes like zero-emission transit and biking and walking infrastructure.

“From day one, the president has been clear that he has two red lines: he will not raise taxes on Americans who make under $400,000 and he will not accept inaction as the outcome,” the White House spokeswoman said. “To ensure that the American Jobs Plan moves forward on a timely basis, the president spoke with Speaker Pelosi to consult with her on efforts to move forward on an infrastructure/jobs package in the House this month. 

“In the same regard, the president also spoke with Senate Majority Leader Schumer to discuss the need to commence work on the budget resolution process so that legislation to advance the president’s economic priorities and tax reform plans could move to the Senate floor in July. The president is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer, and is pursuing multiple paths to get this done,” Psaki said.

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