White House seeks bipartisan support for infrastructure plan

Biden will have to prove his willingness to work with Republicans in Congress

U.S. lawmakers return Monday from spring recess and prepare to begin considering President Joe Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure modernization program.

The Democratic president may have to prove his willingness to work with Republicans in Congress, which he has said repeatedly since taking office. Biden appears to be losing political capital among a group of Senate Republicans, led by Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, whose support would allow him to get enough votes from both parties to pass the infrastructure initiative.

Biden also cannot afford to lose votes to anyone among the Democrats, since their House and Senate preponderance is not large enough.

As previously planned, the president is meeting Monday at the White House with representatives of Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress to discuss the next steps on infrastructure.

According to an anonymous White House source, the president and senior administration officials briefed Republican lawmakers on the details of the plan before it was even announced publicly. “He is enthusiastic about continuing to be in close contact with both parties about this historic investment in our country,” the source said.

Increasingly, however, Republicans are accusing Biden of a lack of sincere interest in working with them. Previously, the president had managed to get a major economic aid package through Congress for the coronavirus pandemic without Republican support.

“Unfortunately, the President has misled the public at every stage of every major bill he has sent to Congress. The pandemic relief bill was not really about the pandemic. This infrastructure bill wasn’t really about infrastructure,” said Congressman Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee.

Biden can expect a skeptical response from the 10 Republican senators who negotiated with him on the fiscal package but never managed to get the final amount reduced. Last week, Biden accused them of not being willing to compromise. “I would have been willing to compromise and they weren’t. They haven’t moved an inch,” he said.

As a result, Democrats were able to circumvent Republican objections with a procedural maneuver.

A White House source said the economic aid package required urgent passage because of the crisis situation, and negotiations on the infrastructure plan could be conducted more quietly.

Legislative aides said Republicans favor a more targeted approach to infrastructure modernization, funded by user fees and tax credits rather than by raising taxes, as Biden proposes.

At the same time, Democratic leaders show no willingness to make concessions and reduce the scope of Biden’s proposal. According to Democratic Senator Chris Coons, the president is willing to negotiate with Republicans until the end of May and then move forward without their support.

“When considering legislative initiatives, you should always listen to all sides and think about where you can find common ground, but you have to think big. You can’t think big enough when it comes to the greatness of America,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who intends to pass Biden’s package by July 4.

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