President Joe Biden said Monday he’s ready to hash out ideas on his proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, as he faces resistance from Republicans and even some Democrats.
Speaking in the Oval Office, Biden said he is “prepared to negotiate as to the extent of the infrastructure project, as well as how we pay for it.”
The president’s plan would pump money into transportation, water and broadband projects, and also into home- and community-based health-care services. The administration’s definition of infrastructure
has rankled some Republicans, who say the proposal is too big and should focus on things like roads and bridges.
At least one key Democrat, meanwhile, has said the proposed hike in the corporate tax rate to 28% to pay for the plan isn’t acceptable. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has said he could support a 25% rate.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with four Democrats and four Republicans on Monday to discuss the proposals. Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Alex Padilla of California attended the White House meeting, as did GOP Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
From the House, Republican Reps. Garret Graves of Louisiana and Don Young of Alaska joined the meeting alongside Democratic Reps. Donald Payne Jr. of New Jersey and David Price of North Carolina.
Payne told a group of reporters after the meeting that Biden discussed a “five cents or something” increase in the gasoline tax, as well as a user fee on electric vehicles. The 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax hasn’t changed since 1993.
A White House official later said that Biden raised the gasoline-tax issue to suggest that there is not a lot of money in the tax, and that it wouldn’t dent the cost of the country’s big infrastructure needs.
Biden mentioned this in the meeting to point out that it doesn’t raise money and why he’s not for it, the official told MarketWatch.
The New Jersey congressman also said Biden was willing to shrink the package — but not drastically.
“I think he’s willing to look at a bit of smaller package, but he really is trying to get folks to understand what this means to the nation,” Payne said.
The White House said the meeting would focus on “the need for a bold, once-in-a-generation investment in America to put millions of people to work.”
Biden has said that inaction on infrastructure is not an option. Democrats could again use the fast-track procedure known as reconciliation to pass the infrastructure proposal in the Senate with 51 votes, though Biden has suggested he wants a bipartisan deal.
“We’ll have a good-faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to help get this done,” the president said in a March 31 speech in Pittsburgh. “But we have to get it done.”