Sen. Angus King: Biden 'Genuinely Wants' Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill President Joe Biden (L) speaks during a meeting with a bipartisan group of members of Congress to discuss investments in the American Jobs Plan including Sen. Angus King (I-ME) in the Oval Office at the White House April 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Doug Mills/Getty Images)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Tuesday, 20 April 2021 09:17 AM
President Joe Biden "genuinely wants" to see his $2.25 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill pass by a bipartisan vote, but that means "both sides have to come to the table," Sen. Angus King said Tuesday after meeting with the president and other senators from both sides of the aisle at the White House Monday afternoon.
"I'm a perennial optimist, but there was a mood in the room (that) we've got to do this, we need to figure out how to do it," the Maine Independent lawmaker said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I think the president genuinely wants to do it on a bipartisan basis rather than ram it through on reconciliation or some other simple majority proposal."
When the meeting began, Biden said he was "prepared to compromise" on his proposal. The group of senators, all of whom are former local leaders, consisted of five Democrats, four Republicans, and King, the lone independent.
King said Tuesday that there was a general consensus that an infrastructure bill is needed, but not on how to pay for it.
"The question is, what is infrastructure?" said King. "How do you define what goes into the category of the bill? And secondly, of course, how is it paid for."
The senator acknowledged that it will be a "tough case" to come to an agreement, and even though Biden had said he was ready for compromise, "he wasn't going to negotiate with himself and start lowering his promise or changing his funding proposal on the spot."
However, King said he hopes the Republicans at the meeting heard Biden's offer for compromise, but the issue remains that Biden has called for restoring corporate tax rates that were dropped by former President Donald Trump's tax cuts from 35% to 21%.
Biden's plan calls for bringing the rates back to 28%, but Republicans at the meeting made it clear that would not work for them, said King.
"Maybe there's a number in between 21 and 28," he said. "I'm not going to speculate on that now, but there were a lot of other discussions about how to pay for it. One of the suggestions I made is, there are billions of dollars that aren't collected every year because the IRS doesn't have the wherewithal to go after tax cheats. So there are various options on the table."
King added that he has heard other proposals for tax rates between 21% and 25%, and he's concerned with Republicans who say raising the tax rate is a "red line" they're not willing to cross.
"You can't really negotiate very well if there's a red line," said King.
However, if a lowball deal is submitted that doesn't meet the country's needs, "then it's not going to go anywhere," said King. "I'm looking and hoping that we can have some genuine good old-fashioned negotiations."
When it comes to politics overall, King said the next month or so, with the negotiations on the infrastructure and jobs bill, will "tell the tale" about whether there can be agreement at all between Senate Republicans and the Democrat-controlled White House.
"The question for me is, are there Republicans who are going to negotiate and realize that they don't control the Senate, they don't control the House, they don't control the presidency, or are they just going to say, no, we're going to obstruct everything," said King.
If that happens, there will be people like himself who have been reluctant about ending the filibuster or using reconciliation who will change their minds, King added.
"My belief is that the future of the filibuster is in Mitch McConnell's hands," he said. "If it's used as a total obstruction weapon, then I think its days are numbered. If it's sort of the weapon that's in the back closet that you occasionally pull out in extreme situations and we can do some serious negotiation, I think it's possible."