In total, Republicans now appear to have offered to spend nearly $980 billion on infrastructure. More than $300 billion of that amount appears to represent new federal investments, with the rest of the proposal reflecting existing or expected spending as part of regular congressional efforts to fund improvements in water and transportation.
Biden has signaled during negotiations he is open to slimming down his package, known as the American Jobs Plan, to about $1 trillion from its initial $2.3 trillion price tag. But the president has also maintained that infrastructure spending should include entirely new investments — meaning that the gap between Democrats and Republicans is more vast than it appears.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the details of the GOP’s latest counteroffer on Friday in a statement after Biden spoke by phone with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). “The president expressed his gratitude for her effort and goodwill, but also indicated that the current offer did not meet his objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis and create new jobs,” she said.
Capito’s office confirmed the call in its own statement, but declined to provide further details.
Both sides said they planned to resume talks on Monday, with Congress set to return after its latest recess. And Psaki signaled the White House could soon broaden its conversations further to other burgeoning efforts in the Senate to craft a bipartisan infrastructure deal.
The overall price tag of an infrastructure package represents only one of the many disagreements still separating Democrats and Republicans over new public-works spending. The two sides still cannot come to terms on what infrastructure fully entails, much less how the U.S. government should finance the investments.
Both sides have sought to make some concessions — with the GOP raising the initial cost of its plan and the White House signaling privately it is willing to put aside some of its most controversial tax increases if only for the moment. But the entreaties have hardly bridged the massive political divide, prompting top White House aides to emphasize in recent days that the clock is ticking.
Psaki earlier Friday declined to set a deadline or specify that the talks are at their end. “There’s runway left,” she said at her news briefing, even though she said there are some “realities of timelines.”
That includes ongoing work in the House and Senate to reauthorize a series of key federal transportation programs, an effort long seen as a potential vehicle for a broader infrastructure deal. Earlier in the day, Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), the leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released his $547 billion plan to fund the nation’s roads and railways. The panel is set to begin considering the measure next week.
DeFazio, who also spoke with Biden on Friday, said in an interview that his proposal incorporates “many of the new and novel programs and objectives” that Biden sketched out in his jobs plan, including the president’s desire to couple new transportation spending with efforts to combat climate change. He said he felt it was important for infrastructure reform to proceed in essentially two tracks, adding: “I think it is essential that the president continues to engage meaningfully with the Senate.”
But Biden’s talks have begun to trouble some Democrats, who in recent days have urged the White House to hold firm on its infrastructure ambitions — and seize on its narrow but potent majorities in Congress to see it through to passage.
“Hmm. When the GOP passed legislation to provide a $1 trillion tax break to corporations & the 1% without a single Democratic vote, I didn’t hear my Republican colleagues say ‘Wait. It has to be bipartisan,’ ” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted on Friday. “Please don’t tell me we can’t use the same tools to help working people.”
“If what I’m reading is true, I would have a very hard time voting yes on this bill,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, adding in a tweet that the $2 trillion package Biden initially put forward “was already the compromise.” “@POTUS can’t expect us to vote for an infrastructure deal dictated by the Republican party,” he added.