A bipartisan group of senators is preparing a secondary infrastructure proposal as negotiations between the White House and several Republican senators appear to be stalling.
The smaller, bipartisan group is composed of around six senators, including Republican Senators Mitt Romney, Rob Portman, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. Romney told reporters on Tuesday that his group was soon take its proposal to the “G-20,” a group of 20 moderate senators from both parties.
“We’ve been, at this stage, waiting in the wings if there’s interest in our proposal,” Romney said. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the lead Republican negotiating with the White House, is expected to talk with President Biden again about the GOP proposal on Tuesday, but its prospects seem to be dimming. Romney’s group has been working on an alternative to the offer by Capito’s team as a backup in case its talks with the White House founder.
Romney told reporters later on Tuesday that his group had a “tentative figure” for the proposal.
Funding has been a sticking point in the ongoing negotiations between Republicans and the White House. Mr. Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, which has been outright rejected by Republicans, who are unwilling to touch the 2017 tax cuts law signed by former President Trump. The Republican group had suggested using funds from previous coronavirus relief measures to pay for the bill, but the White House has turned this down and also opposes the idea of user fees.
Mr. Biden and Capito spoke twice last week, after Capito’s group offered a counterproposal of $928 billion over five years, with $257 billion in new spending. The president had previously lowered his offer from $2.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion. Capito offered an additional $50 billion in spending in a conversation with Mr. Biden on Friday,.
“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. He indicated to Senator Capito that he would continue to engage a number of Senators in both parties in the hopes of achieving a more substantial package,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week.
In a meeting with Capito in person at the White House on Wednesday, the president emphasized portions of his plan that would be funded through corporate taxes, for instance, a 15% minimum tax on the nation’s most profitable companies. However, although this approach could leave the 2017 tax cuts intact, it might not satisfy Republican lawmakers, who may view it as an unnecessary tax hike.
Republican Senator John Barrasso, one of the senators in Capito’s group, said in a press conference Tuesday that “negotiations ongoing with the White House on infrastructure have hit a significant roadblock.” But Senator Roger Wicker, who is also in that group, told reporters Tuesday that negotiations with the White House should continue.
“We need to keep talking,” Wicker said. However, he added that he didn’t believe it was reasonable for the White House to expect a deal by this week.
Meanwhile, GOP Senator Bill Cassidy tweeted on Tuesday that he had received a call from Mr. Biden, and that he had told the president he “strongly supported” Capito’s efforts.
“Any infrastructure package should and must be bipartisan,” Cassidy said.