Washington • President Joe Biden ended talks with a group of Republican senators on a big infrastructure package on Tuesday and started reaching out to senators from both parties as he strives to build bipartisan compromise while laying the groundwork for a potential Democrats-only approach on his top legislative priority.
The president is walking away from talks with lead Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito after the two spoke Tuesday. While Biden expressed gratitude to the West Virginia senator for her “good faith” efforts, he also shared his “disappointment” with the GOP senators’ latest offer, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
“The President is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer, and is pursuing multiple paths to get this done,” Psaki said in a statement.
The breakdown comes as the two sides failed to broker the divide over the scope of the president’s sweeping infrastructure investment and how to pay for it.
The Republican senators offered a $928 billion proposal, which included about $330 billion in new spending — but not as much as Biden’s $1.7 trillion investment proposal for rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, highways and other infrastructure, including Veterans Affairs hospitals and care centers.
Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 28%, and rejected the GOP senators’ suggestion of tapping unspent COVID-19 money to fund the new infrastructure spending.
In a statement, Capito said she was disappointed Biden ended the talks.
“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,” she said. “However, this does not mean bipartisanship isn’t feasible.”
The president’s view is that Capito negotiated in good faith and he would welcome her in the bipartisan talks, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private thinking.
As Biden reaches for a bipartisan deal, he has begun reaching out to other senators, including Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and two key centrist Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who are engaged in a bipartisan talks.
A bipartisan group with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is meeting later Tuesday at the Capitol to negotiate a fresh proposal.
Psaki said Biden also spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as Democrats prepare for all options to move the legislation, including using special budget rules. That would allow for passage by a simple majority of 51 votes in the evenly divided Senate, without the need for GOP support.
The president is expected to engage with lawmakers while he sets out this week on his first foreign trip for an economic summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in Europe.