President Joe Biden ended talks with a group of Republican senators on a big infrastructure package on Tuesday and started reaching out to senators from both parties in a new effort toward bipartisan compromise, setting a summer deadline for Congress to pass his top legislative priority.
The president is walking away from talks with lead Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito after the two spoke Tuesday, but would welcome her in the new bipartisan group, according to an administrative official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private negotiations.
Shortly after the Biden-Capito talks collapsed, 10 senators huddled late Thursday over pizza — five Republicans, five Democrats — emerging after three hours with some optimism their new effort could create a viable path forward, said a person familiar with the closed-door talks and granted anonymity to discuss them.
At the same time, with anxiety running high as time slips by, Democrats are laying the groundwork to pass some or all of the ambitious package on their own. Biden conferred Tuesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about launching the budget resolution process for Senate votes in July, the White House said.
"The President is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer, and is pursuing multiple paths to get this done," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The breakdown in the White House's efforts with GOP senators comes after weeks of prolonged infrastructure talks between the president and Capito as the two sides failed to broker the divide over the scope of Biden's sweeping infrastructure investment and how to pay for it.
The Republican senators offered a $928 billion proposal, which included about $330 billion in new spending — but not as much as Biden's $1.7 trillion investment proposal for rebuilding the nation's roads, bridges, highways and other infrastructure, including Veterans Affairs hospitals and care centers.
Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a nonstarter for Republicans, and rejected the GOP senators' suggestion of tapping unspent COVID-19 aid money to fund the new infrastructure spending.
In a statement, Capito said she was disappointed Biden ended the talks, but also expressed interest in ongoing bipartisan work.
"While I appreciate President Biden's willingness to devote so much time and effort to these negotiations, he ultimately chose not to accept the very robust and targeted infrastructure package, and instead, end our discussions," she said. "However, this does not mean bipartisanship isn't feasible."
The White House confirmed President Biden spoke with Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy yesterday.
They're leading a bipartisan group of senators working on their own infrastructure proposal.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the bipartisan talks "good" but said it won't be "the only answer."
"As a caucus, we will not be able to do all the things the country needs in a totally bipartisan way," Schumer said. "At the same time, we are pursuing the pursuit of reconciliation ... And it may well be that part of the bill that’ll pass will be bipartisan, and part of it will be through reconciliation."
House Democrats are moving forward on infrastructure.
The House transportation and infrastructure committee will mark up a surface transportation bill that includes components of President Biden's American Jobs Plan.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.