President Biden, in his infrastructure speech on Wednesday, pointed out that a lot of Republicans who “badly criticized” his American Rescue Plan later had to acknowledged that “people in my state really like it.” He then invited Republicans to avoid the same outcome on his infrastructure plan, stressing that he’s open to “good faith negotiations."

That apparently did not sit well with the 10 Republicans senators who had presented a puny $650 billion counteroffer to his rescue plan in February. They insisted their plan was presented in “good faith” and “designed to open bipartisan negotiations.” Instead, they complained, “The Administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.”

These Republicans are either being disingenuous or have atrocious negotiating skills. If you are operating in good faith, you do not respond to a $2.2 trillion offer with a $650 billion offer that is missing entire categories of spending (e.g., state and local funding). They could avoid a similar outcome this time around if they really are interested in making the American Jobs Act bipartisan. Here are some suggestions.

First, do not omit the caregiving benefits. One of the leaders in the group, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), introduced a bill this week with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that would “authorize grants to public and non-profit organizations to expand training and support services that improve caregiver health and delay long-term care facility admissions by keeping loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in their homes longer.” Expand that to the elderly in general, and there is probably some common ground to be found.

Second, do not adopt the laughably narrow definition of infrastructure that many Republicans hold. Last June, for instance, a bipartisan group of lawmakers “introduced a bill to provide more than $22.8 billion in aid for semiconductor manufacturers, aiming to spur the construction of chip factories in America amid a strategic technology rivalry with China.” There is agreement on the need to bring chip production to the United States, so Republicans should include that as well.

Third, if they want a lower corporate tax rate than Biden has proposed or no corporate tax hike at all, they must spell out how they want to pay for the bill or make clear that they really no longer care about deficits. Republicans previously have introduced carbon tax bills. With rebates for lower- and middle-income Americans, that may be a feasible way to raise revenue.

There is a range of reasonable responses that Republicans could come up with. But putting forth an unserious, lowball bill with no funding mechanism and without the items Republicans have endorsed in one form or another (e.g., upgrading the electric grids, expanded broadband Internet) will signal that they either cannot produce votes for anything meaningful or that they have not figured out how to be for infrastructure, against deficits and against taxes. (Hint: You cannot be.)

And instead of relying on the right-wing talking point that passing the infrastructure package through reconciliation means that Democrats want to stiff the other party, Republicans could also come forward with an alternative that has even minimal support from their party. While reconciliation would still be needed, they could bring along a handful of Republicans who would have a role in shaping the outcome. Or do they not even have the votes for that?

We will know how serious Republicans are when we see a meaningful counteroffer. Until then, there is no negotiating partner for the White House.

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Treating gun violence victims in Philadelphia, emergency physician Eugenia C. South says more investments are needed in communities to de-escalate conflicts. (Ray Whitehouse, Emefa Agawu, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)

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