Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), A senior Republican on the House Transportation Committee, said in an interview that Biden hit the right notes.
“The president came out of the gates and said he was open to discussions about cost and scope, as well as defining the infrastructure,” said Graves. “Hearing those words was great, that’s what I wanted to hear.”
But Graves said follow-up is most important, a lesson he learned from negotiating Biden’s Covid bill.
“Let’s talk about what infrastructure really is and what the federal government can do better than what it is doing today,” he said. That reflects what becomes a party line, that Biden’s definition of infrastructure is way too far-reaching and has to stick to things like roads and bridges.
According to Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Chairman of the House Committee’s Railway Committee, Biden stressed at the meeting that he was ready to adjust both the funding source and the size of the package to nod the Republicans.
“The president has made it clear that he is ready to discuss all of this. He’s really trying to negotiate … I think the Republicans were surprised by this attitude,” Payne told reporters after the meeting, describing Biden as “a lot more flexible than me “.
The willingness to be flexible encompassed the tax increases that were intended as a source of funding.
“He’s not necessarily considering a lower one [corporate] Tax rate, but he’s ready to discuss it … I think he’s ready to look at a smaller package, “Payne said.
Biden promised attendees that he would send employees to their offices on Tuesday to further discuss the details, Graves said.
Biden also spoke at the meeting about how inadequate existing funding mechanisms are, such as the gas tax, which drives a significant portion of transport-related spending.
The White House has put down proposals to increase the gas tax. An administrative official said Biden raised the gas tax to suggest that even an increase in the tax would not reduce the cost of the country’s infrastructure needs.
A Democratic aide who was aware of the meeting said the Republicans “didn’t come in with just a no.” There was a willingness to see how we can achieve this. “The aide said Biden tried to appeal to the Republicans by focusing on global competitiveness.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed the argument that Monday’s negotiations were just a sign of effort.
“They don’t make multiple uses of the President of the United States’ time, including two bipartisan infrastructure meetings he has already had, or today’s meeting when he did not want to hear authentically from the members present about their ideas on how to move this bipartisan package forward.” said Psaki.
With Republicans still uncomfortable with both the broad definition of infrastructure and the use of corporate tax hikes as a source of funding, it is clear Biden’s reach remains unbroken.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that the Democrats are “launching an Orwellian campaign to convince everyone that any government policy can be described as” infrastructure. “
The White House also released a series of fact sheets on Monday evaluating the existing infrastructure in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and highlighting how Biden’s plan would help everyone. The datasheets use grades from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ infrastructure report and cite statistics from a variety of sectors, including transportation infrastructure, broadband, drinking water, and housing.
Julia Arciga contributed to this report.