Biden ends infrastructure talks with GOP group of senators, pushes ahead with moderates

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden cut off negotiations Tuesday for a bipartisan deal on infrastructure with a group of six Senate Republicans, shifting his focus to a coalition of moderate senators from both parties to keep hopes alive for a compromise. 

The setback came as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved ahead on planning for a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation as a backup if those talks also fail. It would allow Democrats to approve legislation with a simple majority and no Republican support. 

After weeks of meetings but little progress, Biden halted negotiations with the Republican group in a phone call with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the lead negotiator, before he leaves Wednesday morning for a trip to Europe. 

“I spoke with the president this afternoon, and he ended our infrastructure negotiations,” Capito said in a statement, adding that she and fellow Republicans had been under the impression their latest counter proposal met the president’s demands.

“Despite the progress we made in our negotiations, the president continued to respond with offers that included tax increases as his pay for, instead of several practical options that would have not been harmful to individuals, families, and small businesses.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the latest GOP counteroffer – which Republicans increased by $50 billion last Friday to $978 billion – fell short of meeting “essential needs of our country to restore our roads and bridges, prepare us for our clean energy future, and create jobs.” The Republican proposal contained only around $300 million in new funds over already-approved baseline spending on infrastructure. 

Biden thanked Capito for her “efforts and good faith conversations,” according to Psaki, but expressed “disappointment” that Republicans did not raise their offer further. Biden lowered his price tag to $1 trillion in new spending after starting at $2.25 trillion when he proposed his American Jobs Plan in March. 

The White House pledged they’re not giving up on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, however. 

Psaki said Biden also spoke to a group of senators that includes moderate Democrats Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia as well as Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio.

“He urged them to continue their work with other Democrats and Republicans to develop a bipartisan proposal that he hopes will be more responsive to the country’s pressing infrastructure needs,” Psaki said.

Schumer said another path would be a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation that would allow a simple majority in the Senate to approve legislation.

“We will pursue two paths and at some point they will join,” Schumer said.

This is a developing story.

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison. 

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