President Biden does not have a Monday deadline for an infrastructure deal with Republicans, the White House said Thursday amid a report that he is willing to drop his corporate tax hike in exchange for getting an infrastructure deal done.
Press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden intends to continue negotiations next week with Republicans led by Sen. Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.) and said the White House is open to a wide range of potential ways to pay for a bill as Republicans balk at tax hikes.
“We’re going to keep our options open to see what paths we can move forward on,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.
Biden’s spokeswoman fielded questions at the White House as the president joined first lady Jill Biden for a bike ride near his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where he’s spending two nights to celebrate his wife’s 70th birthday.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Biden told Capito during their meeting at the White House a day earlier he might be willing to take his proposed 21 percent to 28 percent corporate tax hike off the table. The hike would undo the tax cuts pushed for by former President Donald Trump and adopted by the GOP in 2017 — and is considered a non-starter by Republicans.
In exchange, the paper reported, he’d seek the tax hike later, outside of the infrastructure package, and settle for a new, minimum corporate tax of 15 percent on global income to target profitable US corporations that pay little to nothing to the federal government annually.
Psaki twice confirmed that Biden does not have a deadline for an infrastructure deal before deciding that Democrats should attempt to ram through a bill without any Republican votes using special budget reconciliation rules.
“He’s going to continue to have conversations with Democrats and Republicans about what the path forward may look like,” Psaki said.
But Psaki said Biden “has talked about wanting to sign a bill into law this summer.”
“We’ve seen Speaker Pelosi talk about how she wants to move forward with infrastructure in June, we’ve seen Senator — Leader Schumer talk about how he wants to move forward with infrastructure in July. Those are some realities in the timeline,” she added.
“But the president is not, we’re not here to set new deadlines. We’re going to continue those conversations.”
On Wednesday, Biden met in the Oval Office with Capito to discuss negotiations, including how to structure revenue increases to raise the funds. Biden and Capito intend to speak again Friday.
Biden proposed a $2.3 trillion plan in March. But Republicans led by Capito last week presented a $928 billion counteroffer after Biden came down to $1.7 trillion.
Some Democrats want to ram Biden’s large original package through Congress without any Republican votes using budget reconciliation — as they did in March to pass the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
Budget reconciliation allows Democrats, who control the evenly divided Senate, to avoid the usual 60-vote threshold for bills in the upper chamber.
Republicans including Capito have said Biden himself seems more eager for a deal than his staff. And there remain vast differences between the president and Republicans on how to pay for a bill and what to include.
Republicans refuse to consider tax increases and want to remove social spending such as $400 billion proposed for home and community health care.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday the White House will decide next week whether to continue to seek compromise after Congress resumes business following a Memorial Day break.
“By the time that they return, which is June 7, just a week from tomorrow, we need a clear direction,” Buttigieg said. “The president keeps saying, ‘Inaction is not an option’ and time is not unlimited here. The American people expect us to do something.”
Biden’s original plan called for $115 billion for roads and bridges, $111 billion to modernize water systems, $100 billion for broadband internet, $85 billion for public transit, $80 billion for Amtrak repairs and $25 billion for airports, among other items.
The latest Capito-led counterproposal would put much more money — $506 billion — toward road and bridges while cutting items that are less traditionally considered infrastructure, like health care and electric vehicle subsidies.
The latest GOP plan approximates other initial Biden asks, calling for $98 billion for public transit systems, $72 billion for water systems, $65 billion for broadband expansion, $56 billion for airports and $46 billion for passenger and freight rail.
Republicans want to pay for the bill in part by using unspent money from the $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief funds that passed in March. The White House insisted last week that 95 percent of pandemic stimulus funds had been obligated.
The White House rejected a different Republican proposal to apply user fees to new infrastructure projects. Republicans also have floated using public-private partnerships. Biden wants a significant tax hike on businesses.
The president has taken pains to present himself as genuinely pursuing Republican buy-in on infrastructure spending.
In February, by contrast, Biden said it was an “easy choice” to move ahead without Republicans just four days after hosting 10 GOP senators to discuss a counterproposal for COVID-19 relief. The Republicans had countered his $1.9 trillion plan with a smaller $600 billion package.