Biden lowers infrastructure proposal to $1.7 trillion in push to win over Senate Republicans

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s administration Friday offered Senate Republicans a smaller $1.7 trillion infrastructure counterproposal – down from $2.3 trillion – as the two sides remain at an impasse in negotiations for a bipartisan agreement.

Yet the new offer keeps tax increases that Republicans have said they won’t support under any circumstances. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the American Jobs Plan counteroffer removes funds for research and development, supply chains, manufacturing and small businesses – though she vowed the president is still committed to these measures in other legislation. 

Biden’s counteroffer also reduces $100 billion proposed for broadband expansion to $65 billion, matching the amount for broadband outlined in a $586 billion plan from Senate Republicans. Psaki said Biden’s counteroffer reduces funding for roads and bridges to “come closer” to $299 billion proposed by the Republican senators for those areas.

“In our view, this is the art of seeking common ground,” Psaki said at Friday’s press briefing. “This proposal exhibits a willingness to come down in size, giving on some areas that are important to the president … while also staying firm in areas that are most vital to building our infrastructure and industries of the future.”

Senior White House officials including Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president, unveiled the counteroffer Friday during a virtual meeting to a group of six Republican senators led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. The White House contingent also included Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. The same parties met Tuesday.

President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony to present the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett in the East Room of the White House, Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)

Psaki said the counteroffer does not change Biden’s proposal to raise corporate taxes to 28% to pay for the new spending over the next decade – likely making it a tough sell, despite the minor concessions, for Senate Republicans who have roundly objected Biden’s tax hike proposals.  

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell last week drew a “red line” opposing any package that would undo former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts by raising the corporate tax rate.

McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also said they want the package to stick strictly to physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, airports and broadband expansion, not electric vehicles, home caregiving or other so-called “human infrastructure” that Biden has proposed.

Biden’s American Jobs Plan would include billions for caregiving for seniors and the disabled, the expansion of electric vehicles and other investments on top of traditional transportation infrastructure. He’s also pushing $1.8 trillion in investments for families and children.

Biden has billed the jobs proposal as a domestic investment not seen in the U.S. since the construction of the interstate highways in the 1950s and the space race a decade later.

The plan seeks to reshape an American economy struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, while positioning the United States to fight climate change and out-compete China in manufacturing.

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

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