Republicans and Democrats are slowly getting closer in negotiations on a major infrastructure package, a top GOP negotiator says.
Democrats used a budget tool called reconciliation to ram through the COVID-19 relief package earlier this year but have not turned to the tool for infrastructure because “there is a hunger for bipartisanship,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said on May 30, citing how President Joe Biden told people during his inaugural speech that he would govern for voters from both parties.
“He has expressed to me and to our group numerous times his desire to work with us and to negotiate a package. And I think that’s what you see, in fact, that we’re inching towards one another,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I understand there’s a deadline here. I understand at some point if we don’t get there—but it won’t be because we didn’t try. And it’s worth it. It’s worth it to show this country we can work together, we can reach compromise for the good of everybody.”
Capito has been a top Republican negotiator on the package, meeting multiple times with Biden to try to hammer out a deal.
Biden’s infrastructure plan started out at $2.3 trillion and included $400 billion to boost care for the elderly and disabled. After Republicans criticized some of the provisions, such as the care portion, and delivered a $928 billion plan that drew praise from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Biden offered a slimmed-down $1.7 trillion proposal.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on May 30 that “there’s certainly been major movement and a lot of good conversations.”
“There’s movement in the right direction, but a lot of concerns. Certainly have some concerns about some things that are not in their counteroffer that are really important in terms of speaking to the climate imperative and the climate consequences of our transportation decisions, what we need to do around transit, as well as things like taking care of veteran hospital infrastructure, and other things we really believe we need to do right now,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Still, “the conversations will continue with the president, with members of Congress, and we remain very hopeful that we can get to a good place,” he said.
The Senate is in recess until June 7. GOP senators told reporters on May 28 that staff members were in touch and there were no meetings set up for the week of May 30.
One major sticking point has been the differing definitions of infrastructure, with Biden’s inclusion of nontraditional provisions in his proposal.
“We disagree on the definition of infrastructure, and we’ve been working with the president to bring it back to the physical core idea of infrastructure that we’ve worked so well on in the past, whether that’s roads and bridges, waterways, ports, lead pipes, transit, airports, and also the new infrastructure, which is we must have everywhere a broadband. Those are great categories I think that we can work together on,” Capito said.
While Capito thinks Democrats want to reach a bipartisan compromise, a number of Democratic senators have encouraged party leaders to ram the package through by using budget reconciliation—an option the White House has left open.
“I think waiting any longer for Republicans to do the right thing is a misstep. I would go forward,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“President Biden has a huge, bold agenda of so much he wants to do for the economy and the American people. Democrats should respond and vote together now through reconciliation to get it done, and then move on to the rest of the bipartisan agenda.”