Biden Halts Stalled Infrastructure Talks With Leading Republicans
Both President Biden and Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, accused the other of being unwilling to compromise.
Biden pulls the plug on infrastructure talks with Capito, shifting focus to centrist senators for a bipartisan deal.
A bipartisan group of senators met to discuss a new infrastructure package in one of the offices of Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, in the late afternoon on Tuesday. From left, they are Bill Cassidy of Louisiana; the lone Democrat visible at the table, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; Susan Collins of Maine; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; and Mitt Romney of Utah.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
June 8, 2021, 8:31 a.m. ET
President Biden on Tuesday cut off his infrastructure negotiations with leading Senate Republicans after their talks failed to bridge wide divides over the size, scope and financing of the package, turning to a group of centrist senators to try to salvage the chance for a bipartisan deal.
The collapse of the effort came after Mr. Biden concluded that Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and other Republicans were unwilling to significantly increase the amount of new money to be invested in the nation’s roads, bridges and other public projects as part of the plan, or offer specifics on how to pay for it.
“He informed Senator Capito today 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 our clean energy future, and create jobs,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
She said Mr. Biden was disappointed that Republicans had been unwilling to embrace a larger plan, offering to increase their proposal by just $150 billion when he had agreed to shave more than $1 trillion off his initial $2.3 trillion blueprint.
In her own statement, Ms. Capito said it had been Mr. Biden who had been unwilling to compromise.
“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,” Ms. Capito said in a statement.
Their parting of ways came as Mr. Biden began making overtures to a separate bipartisan group of centrist senators who have been working on a potential infrastructure deal. The president on Tuesday spoke with Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, and Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats, and “urged them to continue their work” on a compromise plan, Ms. Psaki said.
Mr. Biden planned to continue talking with members of the group while traveling to Europe this week for the Group of 7 summit, Ms. Psaki said, and assigned top White House officials to meet with them in person to hammer out a potential deal.
“Any infrastructure package should and must be bipartisan,” Mr. Cassidy said on Twitter, adding that he had raised “flood resiliency and energy provisions” with Mr. Biden during their conversation.
Mr. Cassidy and the other members of the bipartisan group were to huddle Tuesday evening on Capitol Hill to discuss their ideas for an infrastructure plan. Some House lawmakers, including members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, also spoke to top White House officials about a bipartisan path forward.
“I don’t know that it’s something we’ve signed off on, but we do have a tentative figure at this point,” said Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah. He would not disclose that figure, but said he had spoken to administration officials about it.
Democrats could also move infrastructure legislation on their own through the fast-track budget process known as reconciliation, which would allow them to avoid a filibuster, though that would require all 50 Democrats in the Senate and near unanimity among House Democrats.
“We all know as a caucus we will not be able to do all the things that the country needs in a totally bipartisan — a bipartisan way,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader.
He said Democrats were pursuing a “two-path” approach, allowing the bipartisan talks to continue while also pursuing reconciliation in case it became their only option for pushing through all or some provisions in the infrastructure plan.