Three key words: “If that’s possible.” Meanwhile, Senate Republicans on the Sunday talk shows suggested that they’d like to negotiate while simultaneously trying to lock in the terms of any negotiation. Fortunately, Team Biden seems wise to this ruse.
Faced with a yawning gap between the president’s $2.25 trillion proposal and their own $568 billion counteroffer, Senate Republicans sought to eliminate chunks of Biden’s plan before any formal talks had even begun. “We’re focusing on core infrastructure,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I actually believe there’s a deal to be had, if we leave things out like the Green New Deal, and recyclable cafeteria trays and climate justice.” Over on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) took the same approach: “If you’re talking about a scope which is roads and bridges and Internet and tunnels and airports and waterways, we can be pretty close. If you’re talking about spending hundreds of billions of dollars to benefit public service unions, then we’re far apart.”
It’s as if Republicans went into a car dealership, made a lowball offer for a top-of-the-line model and then tried to argue: Well, there’s a deal to be had if we leave out the wheels.
Even the initial GOP counteroffer is far more meager than Republicans let on, because they rigged the math. As The Post’s Glenn Kessler and Catherine Rampell have both pointed out, that proposal touted as $568 billion is in fact just $189 billion in new spending, a mere 8 percent of Biden’s overall plan. Counting only what Republicans consider “core” infrastructure, the gap between the two sides’ proposals is almost $600 billion. And if Republicans already believe that their plan “is a massive amount of infrastructure,” as Barrasso put it, then there’s little reason to expect them to meet the White House in the middle.
The story’s the same when it comes to how to pay for the spending. In the abstract, Republicans see plenty of room for negotiation: “There are a host of different ways to pay for it,” Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) said on CNN. “It can be paid for in different ways,” echoed Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But when it comes to the White House’s specific starting point — raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent — Republicans locked up. “By taking it to 28 percent, you actually rebalance the world against American workers,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” (Never mind that the 2017 Trump tax cuts, which slashed the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, had little economic benefit.) “I won’t support American businesses paying the highest corporate tax rate among developed countries,” said Collins — who also refused to say whether she’d back a compromise rate of 25 percent.
So Republicans are open to meeting Democrats halfway on infrastructure spending and funding, except when it comes to the spending and the funding. If this is “negotiation,” then the word has lost all meaning.
There are, however, two pieces of good news: First, most voters see through this fiction. In a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, 51 percent of Americans, including half of independents, say President Biden is doing “the right amount” to compromise with Republicans. Just 22 percent say the same about Republicans vis-a-vis Biden. The poll also found that 71 percent of independents and even 37 percent of Republicans believe the GOP isn’t doing enough to compromise.
Second, the president seems to see through the Republicans’ posturing, too. On Thursday, Biden told reporters that “if, like last time, they come in with one-fourth or one-fifth of what I’m asking and say, ‘That’s a final offer,’ then … it’s a no-go for me.” Given Dunn’s language, it seems that Biden officials are leaving themselves plenty of room for when Republicans’ pretenses at negotiation break down. The result? Once again Republicans will be left in the cold while the country recovers — and it’s all their fault.