Democrats Appear Open to Concessions on Biden Infrastructure Bill Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) speaks at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on FEMA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Saturday, 01 May 2021 01:53 PM
Democrats, including President Joe Biden, are signaling to Republicans privately that they're willing to agree to some concessions over the president's massive $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan if that means a bipartisan plan can be reached, according to people close to the strategy.
“We have a little more time for the consideration of this, and the percolation of these proposals, to have broader consultation and dialogue,” Steve Ricchetti, a top White House aide, told The Washington Post.
Biden has spoken recently with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who has helped lead the effort on the party's $568 billion counteroffer to Biden's plan.
During the meeting, Biden suggested he was contemplating Capito's lower-priced offer more seriously than he did the GOP response to his COVID-19 relief bill, according to The Post's sources.
Further, key Senate Democrats are meeting regularly with Republican counterparts and have signaled a willingness for bipartisan, smaller bills even if that legislation doesn't meet up with Biden's call for a larger, more immediate bill.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a longtime friend of Biden's, have been talking to congressional Republicans, according to an aide, with Buttigieg himself speaking to more than 20 members of Congress.
The new strategy clouds signal Biden's wish to enter the 2022 midterms with at least one bipartisan achievement, but it's not clear if any Republicans will sign onto new plans. Further, it's not clear how much Biden will back down.
Capito, though said that she is seeing a big difference between the talks over the infrastructure bill than she did with the COVID relief bill.
"I don’t think there’s been, you know, stop signs or caution flags or anything like that that I’m seeing to think that we shouldn’t be negotiating in earnest,” the senator said.
There are other Democrats who want an infrastructure plan that does not sound too liberal, as many Republicans have accused it of being a wish list from progressives.
Biden has also introduced a $1.8 trillion plan to expand the federal safety net, along with new taxes to pay for his plan, and centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said he has concerns over tax hikes and more.
"You want to make sure you’re competitive," said Manchin, but warned against raising tax rates too high.
"That makes me very uncomfortable," he said. “Are we going to be able to be competitive and be able to pay for what we need in the country? We’ve got to figure out what our needs are, and maybe make some adjustments."
Many Democrats agree that the current talks are not like those over covid relief, and said they see the Republicans’ offer on infrastructure as a start.
Democrats are also hoping that the unexpected popularity of the Biden COVID package and the desire to campaign on achievements such as roads and bridges could be enough to bring some Republicans over to their side.
Biden will only need a few Republicans to agree to his plan to consider it as being bipartisan.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. Bob Casey said he's excited at the idea that broad legislation could be passed, pointing out that he's been pushing for a bill to expand pre-kindergarten since 2007.
"Now we have a moment to not just make investments for the sake of doing so, but to have a transformative impact on the lives of tens of millions of people who’ve been left out for 40 years,” Casey said.
Other Democrats, though, say they're concerned that too many concessions may be underway.
"The president has laid out so well what we need to get done to build back better and create good union jobs,” said Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich. “If the GOP wants to work with us to achieve that vision, I’m all for it. But I don’t think we should let their opposition force us to do less.”