President Biden brought the months-long infrastructure negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to an end on Tuesday, formalizing the conclusion of talks with the Republican senator that were widely seen to be going nowhere.
Biden will now move on to talks with another GOP representative, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who has been discussing another potential compromise on infrastructure with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Biden and Capito spoke for five minutes earlier on Tuesday, the West Virginian said.
The talks had been plagued since their April beginning by a basic impasse over Republican demands that Democrats provide detailed ways to pay for the legislation, so long as those ways not include tax increases or increased borrowing.
What was left from that was a GOP counteroffer to repurpose existing COVID relief money towards the infrastructure package. Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal offered $2.3 trillion in new money; the GOP counteroffer proposed $257 billion in new spending.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that while Biden had ultimately been “willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by only $150 billion.”
Sen. Capito issued a statement noting that she had negotiated “in good faith.” The senator added that the failure of the talks “does not mean bipartisanship isn’t feasible.”
It would not be lost on Capito that the search for bipartisanship — either in appearance or substance — has been the driver of the talks, as Sen. Manchin continues to demand that the Senate find ways to pass legislation with bipartisan support.
Capito’s counteroffer refused to give any meaningful concessions to Democratic negotiators, raising the GOP proposal up to around 11 percent of the new spending proposed by Biden.
The Romney group, which includes a total of 10 senators from each party, is reportedly eyeing a $900 billion infrastructure package.
That’s still significantly less than what Biden initially proposed. It’s not clear whether that is new money funded by Biden’s tax proposals or if it would make use of the same tactic of repurposing already-existing funding.
Psaki emphasized in her statement that Biden is leaving the door to an infrastructure package passed through reconciliation open, and that a vote on such a bill could take place in July.