Joe Biden’s attempt to reach agreement with Republican senators on a comprehensive infrastructure spending package collapsed Tuesday, narrowing the US president’s options as he tries to move his economic agenda through Congress.
Biden had spent the past few weeks immersed in negotiations with Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican senator from West Virginia, for a bipartisan compromise, but the pair called off talks after they failed to reach an agreement.
The collapse in infrastructure negotiations highlights Biden’s struggle to advance his ambitious domestic legislative agenda beyond the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan passed in March, in a highly polarized political environment with a strong Republican opposition.
Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package — along with a separate $1.8 trillion social spending plan — is central to his hopes of reshaping the US economy after the pandemic by giving the government a greater role in financing public goods ranging from roads to broadband and childcare support. And the nursery.
The White House and Republicans were divided over the size and nature of infrastructure investment, as well as how to pay for the plan without increasing the US budget deficit. Biden had sharply cut his spending target and backtracked on his push to raise the corporate income tax rate, but Republicans rejected those offers and made counterproposals that the White House found inadequate.
“[Biden] Give his gratitude to [Capito] for her efforts and good faith talks, but expressed disappointment that while he was willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group increased its proposed new investment by only $150 billion,” Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary said in a statement regarding the breakdown of the talks.
“While I appreciate President Biden’s willingness to dedicate so much time and effort to these negotiations, he ultimately chose not to accept this very strong and targeted infrastructure package and, instead, to end our discussions,” Capito said.
The failure of talks between Biden and Capito sets the stage for a new round of negotiations between Biden and a bipartisan group of eight moderate senators, including Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, Kirsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, and Mitt Romney, Utah. Republican, and Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana.
The president and lawmakers will try to find a successful compromise in the coming weeks.
Psaki said Biden will be “in touch” with the group by phone as he travels to Europe over the next week, and that he has asked aides including Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell and Brian Daisy to sponsor the negotiations.
Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill earlier Tuesday that his group of lawmakers “define who we are” before presenting a “strong” proposal to the larger group of 20 members of the Senate.
If those talks also collapse, Biden’s only option would be to try to pass the infrastructure spending bill with a purely Democratic vote, but that would be a daunting task given his party’s very narrow margins in the House and Senate.
Rana Forouhar and Edward Luce discuss the biggest topics of the intersection of money and power in American politics every Monday and Friday. Subscribe to our newsletter Here