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Beltway Buzz: Is Infrastructure Dead?

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Posted: Jun 09, 2021 1:15 PM
Beltway Buzz: Is Infrastructure Dead?

As Leah reported this morning, talks broke down between President Biden and Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia on Tuesday, appearing to doom the viability of a bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

Capito released the following statement late in the day, noting that the GOP had upped its offer to roughly $1 trillion -- a staggering amount of money -- but President Work Together wouldn't take yes for an answer, so here we are:

“I spoke with the president this afternoon and he ended our infrastructure negotiations. As Republicans, we believe in our nation’s infrastructure, which is why our negotiating team—which consisted of the Ranking Members from the committees of jurisdiction—consistently worked in good faith with President Biden and were optimistic that we could reach a bipartisan agreement for the sake of the country. Throughout our negotiations, we engaged respectfully, fully, and very candidly—delivering several serious counteroffers that each represented the largest infrastructure investment Republicans have put forth. In our discussions with the president, he himself made it clear that he was willing to accept an offer around $1 trillion, that baseline spending would and could be included, and that a plan could stretch over an 8-year period of time. The president also understood one of our red lines, which was not undoing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which has helped so many Americans. Our latest offer, coupled with legislation the Senate is expected to pass today, would have exceeded the president’s threshold. Despite the progress we made in our negotiations, the president continued to respond with offers that included tax increases as his pay for, instead of several practical options that would have not been harmful to individuals, families, and small businesses...After negotiating in good faith and making significant progress to move closer to what the president wanted, I am disappointed by his decision."

Here's Capito on Special Report last evening:


Though partisans will always spin things to their advantage in situations and disputes like this, Capito does not have a reputation for aggressive partisanship and hyperbole. What she is alleging is that Biden walked away from the talks even after Republicans moved in his direction with an offer that was within the parameters he'd laid out for them as acceptable.  There are no doubt complexities (especially on redirecting funds into this package and tax increases), but it's true that the GOP contingent had significantly upped their counteroffer, into the ballpark of $1 trillion.  Capito sounds peeved and accuses the White House of moving the goalposts several times.  If Biden offered parameters that the GOP had approached or met in good faith, only to have Biden stiff-arm them anyway, one can understand why Sen. Tom Cotton reached this conclusion:


But are the negotiations over?  Capito was the lead Republican on this -- or at least that was my impression -- but Sen. Mitt Romney said last night that there are other talks still afoot:


A few key upper chamber moderates made similarly optimistic noises, including Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, but disagreements over pay-fors are no minute detail.  That's a major sticking point.  More discussions might be happening, but it seems more than likely that Democrats are preparing to go it alone with a huge price tag and a "reconciliation" process that would only need 50-plus-one votes in the Senate for passage.  They have one more round in the reconciliation chamber, per the Senate parliamentarian, and it certainly looks like that's what's about to go down.  All it would take is one Democratic defection to scuttle that plan, however, and Manchin has suggested on several occasions that he's not on board.  But based on his phraseology, the West Virginian isn't a hard no, and given the firestorm he's just endured on the filibuster and H.R. 1, my guess is that he'll eventually tweak a Democrat-only package then play ball on reconciliation.  He's fundamentally in favor of spending big money on infrastructure and he's taken his lumps on other matters.  I could be wrong, but the tea leaves I'm seeing are more bipartisan talks, followed by an impasse, followed by Democrats ramming through a party-line bill, spending approximately $2 trillion more in borrowed money.  We'll see.  Finally, next time you hear Democrats complaining about nothing getting done because Republicans are using the suddenly bad and racist filibuster tool Democrats used hundreds of times in recent years, this is a fair point: