Let’s make a deal: Biden meets with GOP to talk ‘compromise’ on $2.3T spend plan

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President Biden on Thursday met with six Senate Republicans to discuss possible compromise on his proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill.

Biden hosted the top Republicans on relevant committees a day after he hosted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the first time.

“I’m prepared to compromise,” said Biden, who was joined by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

“We’ll see if we can work out some — on a compromise on infrastructure. And I know they’re sincere about it, so am I. And what we’re going to try to do is figure out what we can — what constitutes infrastructure from … our perspectives and then see whether or not we’re in a position that — how, how much we want to fund it above the baseline, the baseline meaning what we spent last year,” Biden said.

He added: “It’s a genuine effort. I think we get there.” 

Reporters were escorted out of the Oval Office just two minutes into the meeting that included Biden and GOP Sens. Shelley Capito West Virginia, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

Biden’s Wednesday meeting with McConnell and McCarthy hit a snag when the Republican leaders said they have a “red line” on raising taxes. Biden has insisted that any boost in infrastructure spending be paid for with tax hikes on businesses, investments and higher incomes.

Biden’s infrastructure plan drew GOP criticism in part because its top expenditure would be $400 billion for home and community health care, which they say isn’t infrastructure. Senate Republicans offered a more narrow, $568 billion infrastructure counter-proposal.

Biden also proposed a $1.8 trillion “families” plan that would federally fund preschool and community colleges and create new subsidies for child care and paid family and sick leave.

If they maintain internal unity, Democrats will be able to ram through both massive packages without any Republican votes under special budget reconciliation rules, according to a recent ruling from the Senate parliamentarian. 

In February, just four days after hosting 10 Republican senators to discuss COVID-19 relief, Biden said it was an “easy choice” to forge ahead without them. The Republicans had countered his $1.9 trillion plan with a smaller, $600 billion package. Biden’s larger plan passed in March without any Republican votes.

Democrats face internal divisions as they seek to pass the new packages, increasing the appeal of compromise.

In the House, where Democrats hold a slim, seven-seat advantage, a trio of tri-state legislators — Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) — say they won’t agree to any changes in the tax code unless the $10,000 “SALT cap” is eliminated. The cap since 2017 has hammered residents of high-tax jurisdictions like New York and New Jersey by limiting the amount of state and local taxes that people can deduct before paying federal taxes. Its repeal wasn’t in Biden’s new proposals.

And in the Senate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), whose vote alone could derail both bills, said he’s “very uncomfortable” with the amount of spending being proposed.

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