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What Mitt Romney told Joe Biden in his White House meeting on infrastructure

The Utah senator was one of 10 lawmakers who joined the Oval Office meeting.

(Andrew Harnik | AP) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, attends a meeting with President Joe Biden and other members of congress to discuss his jobs plan in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 19, 2021.

Sen. Mitt Romney believes President Joe Biden wants to compromise with Republicans on a big funding bill to revamp the nation’s roads, rails, airports and much more.

And the Utah senator told the president one way to do so would be to drop tax increases to pay for it, replacing them with fees on the people who would benefit from the improvements.

Romney was among a group of 10 bipartisan lawmakers, each having previously served as a mayor or governor, who met Monday with Biden in the Oval Office. Romney previously served as the governor of Massachusetts.

“He was in listening mode and gracious to solicit our respective points of view,” Romney told reporters after the meeting.

The Utah Republican was asked if he thought Biden was sincere in seeking a deal or if it was a show of bipartisanship before Democrats attempted to pass his $2 trillion infrastructure bill unilaterally. Romney said, “They would like to work on a bipartisan basis. I think there’s a great deal of interest on the part of Republicans to improve our infrastructure and the challenge is going to be how it’s paid for.”

The Biden plan rests largely on increases in corporate taxes, including raising the base rate from 21% to 28%. Romney is working with nine other Republicans to create a counterproposal that would rely on user fees.

“If we’re going to redo an airport,” Romney said, “I think it makes sense to look at the people who are flying to pay for the cost over some period of time.”

This means that each section of the GOP plan would have a different funding mechanism. That plan is not “very far along on our side of the aisle at this stage,” Romney said, but there are small groups working on pieces on highways, water pipes and more.

While Biden’s bill has a price tag above $2 trillion, the Republican plan under discussion would likely cost between $600 billion and $800 billion.

At the beginning of the meeting, Biden said, “I am prepared to compromise, prepared to see what we can do and what we can get together on.”

Afterward, the White House said the president asked for follow-up proposals from the lawmakers present “while underscoring that inaction is not an option.”

This infrastructure measure is Biden’s top priority. It is likely to dominate Washington this summer. The House will try to pass a version by July 4.

In pushing its proposal, the White House has gathered stats on the infrastructure in each state and gave Utah a C-plus. That was the highest grade given to a state.

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