WASHINGTON—A Senate Republican leading efforts to reach a compromise on infrastructure legislation proposed a $50 billion spending increase from the latest GOP offer, a measure that President Biden said fell short of what was necessary to reach an agreement.
The new offer, the details of which weren’t yet clear, came during a Friday afternoon phone call between Mr. Biden and
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito
(R., W.Va.), who is among a group of Senate Republicans working to find common ground with the White House.
In response to Mrs. Capito’s offer, the White House said, “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.”
Mrs. Capito and the group of Senate Republicans who are involved in the negotiations unveiled a plan last week to spend $928 billion over eight years to update roads, bridges, rail and transit systems. That offer is an increase from the GOP’s original five-year $568 billion proposal, but only about $257 billion of their latest proposal is above projected federal spending if current programs continue, according to the Republicans.
The president and Mrs. Capito plan to speak again on Monday, and Mr. Biden said he would reach out to other lawmakers of both parties as he sought a compromise on the infrastructure package. After the Friday afternoon call concluded, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Capito said the senator and the president discussed the parties’ proposals.
Earlier this week, Mr. Biden proposed a narrower $1 trillion package and alternative ways to pay for the measure. But the Biden administration and Senate Republicans remain at odds over core issues in the negotiations, including the size and scope of the bill, and how to pay for it.
The White House said Mr. Biden also spoke on Friday afternoon with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.), who is working on a highway reauthorization bill.
Mr. Biden is facing pressure from members of his own party as the negotiations drag on, with moderates urging him to find compromise with Republicans and progressives pushing him to use a budgetary maneuver to pass legislation without GOP support.
Some liberal House Democrats said they were concerned that Mr. Biden is making concessions they view as too large.
“If what we’ve read is true, I would have a very difficult time voting yes on this bill—$2 trillion was already the compromise,”
Rep. Jamaal Bowman
(D., N.Y.) said Thursday. “President Biden can’t expect us to vote for an infrastructure deal dictated by the Republican Party.”
But centrists, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), have pressed Mr. Biden to continue efforts to strike a bipartisan deal and signaled reluctance to move forward without GOP support.
“I don’t think we should. I really don’t,” Mr. Manchin told NBC News on Thursday. “We need to be bipartisan.”
During a Wednesday meeting at the White House with Mrs. Capito, Mr. Biden said he wants $1 trillion in new spending in the package, down from his previous offer of $1.7 trillion. He also proposed several options for paying for the spending that wouldn’t boost the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, as he previously proposed. Republicans have called any effort to boost the corporate tax rate or unwind the Republicans’ 2017 tax law a nonstarter.
Among the options Mr. Biden outlined: a minimum corporate tax of 15% for the nation’s largest companies and the repurposing of some Covid-19 aid funding approved during the Trump administration.
Friday’s conversation between Mrs. Capito and Mr. Biden will be the latest test of whether the two sides can find common ground. Mr. Biden’s proposals were met with skepticism from some GOP aides. Republicans indicated that many of Mr. Biden’s suggestions still amounted to tax increases they would oppose.
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On Friday morning, Mr. DeFazio introduced a five-year, $547 billion highway reauthorization bill that the House committee will debate next week. The legislation includes $343 billion for roads, bridges and safety improvements, $109 billion for transit investments, and $95 billion for passenger and freight rail projects.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously advanced a $304 billion reauthorization bill earlier, legislation that lawmakers see as a possible component of a broader infrastructure deal.
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