Biden, a Democrat, has proposed reversing key portions of the 2017 tax bill which had been approved by the GOP and signed by then-President Donald Trump.
“We’re not interested in reopening the 2017 tax bill. We both made that clear to the president. That’s our red line,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters in Washington after the meeting.
The economy was strong in early 2020, before being derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, because of the tax cuts in the bill, McConnell asserted.
“Raising taxes would be the biggest mistake you could make,” added House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), citing the rise in gas, food, housing, and lumber prices and surging inflation. “That, to us, is a nonstarter.”
Biden’s primary tax-related provision in his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan is raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. The 2017 legislation slashed the rate from 35 percent.
Biden is also pushing a $1.8 trillion bill that would fund free preschool and two free years of community college. Part of that proposal is increasing the highest individual tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent. Trump’s tax bill shifted the top rate to its current level.
Before the meeting, the president said the group, which included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), was going to try to reach some kind of consensus on a compromise moving forward.
Afterward, he said he came away encouraged.
“I’m encouraged that there is room to have a compromise on a bipartisan bill that’s solid and significant, and a means by which to pay for it without dropping all of the burden on middle-class and working-class people,” Biden said.
According to a White House readout, the meeting consisted of congressional leaders and Biden working “to identify areas where they could collaborate, especially with regard to infrastructure, on which the leaders agreed there was a need for investment.”
Biden said he ran to be president for all Americans, but he hasn’t yet reached a major bipartisan agreement on any proposal. Democrats used a budget tool to ram their COVID-19 relief plan through Congress earlier this year, after bipartisan support for relief measures throughout the Trump administration. Democrats haven’t ruled out using the same tactic to push through other packages.
“We’ll see if I can get it done without Republicans if need be,” Biden said on MSNBC.
Even that could prove difficult, with pushback on some of the more radical parts of the proposal from Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). In the Senate, Democrats need every single vote from caucus members, and two nominal independents, to pass a bill.
The GOP unveiled a $568 billion infrastructure counterproposal last month, and McConnell has said he might support a package that went as high as $800 billion.
“There is certainly a bipartisan desire to get an outcome,” McConnell told reporters on May 12 outside the White House.
“I think there’s a place where we can find bipartisanship,” McCarthy said.
Schumer said the meeting was good.
“Basically, we said that we would explore the way—the places where we could agree on and come to a bipartisan agreement on those. So we’re going to see which areas there are areas of agreement in some degree of detail, based on Biden’s plan,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill.