Infrastructure Talks Between Biden, Capito Die As President Shifts Focus To Bipartisan Senate Group

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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Talks between President Joe Biden and Republican West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito on infrastructure are dead, the senator said in a statement Tuesday.

Capito, the top negotiator for Senate Republicans regarding Biden’s infrastructure proposal, spoke to the president on the phone for about five minutes Tuesday afternoon, CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox noted. Capito and Biden have previously spoken multiple times in an attempt to hash out a bipartisan package.

“The President asked this group whether they could come up significantly on new investment in their plan and they couldn’t,” an administration official said according to Politico’s Sam Stein. “He also asked them to be specific about payfors and consider reasonable solutions, but they weren’t willing to do that.”

Capito confirmed in a statement that Biden “ended” their “infrastructure negotiations” during a brief talk Tuesday, NBC News reported.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a new statement that Biden “has spoken to a number of members of the House and Senate the past two days.” In addition to speaking with Capito, the president “also spoke with Senators [Kyrsten] Sinema [of Arizona], [Bill] Cassidy [of Louisiana], and [Joe] Manchin [of West Virginia] today,” Psaki said.

“He informed Senator Capito today that the latest offer from her group did not, in his view, meet the essential needs of our country to restore our roads and bridges, prepare us for our clean energy future, and create jobs,” the press secretary noted. “He offered his gratitude to her for her efforts and good faith conversations, but expressed his disappointment that, while he was willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by only $150 billion.”

Biden, in his chats with the other lawmakers, “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,” according to Psaki’s statement.

“The President said that he would be in contact with members of the group by phone while in Europe, and he designated his Jobs Cabinet and White House aides Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell, and Brian Deese to meet with them in person to advance this effort,” she added.

Senate Republicans most recently proposed a $50 billion increase in spending compared to their prior offer. Biden rejected this offer Friday and indicated that it didn’t “meet his objectives.”

“The president expressed his gratitude for her effort and goodwill, but also indicated that the current offer did not meet his objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis, and create new jobs,” Psaki said in a statement at the time.

With talks between Biden and Capito over – at least for now – the president plans to look towards engaging with the bipartisan “G-20” group of senators, as Psaki indicated Tuesday. (RELATED: Psaki Dismisses Buttigieg’s Timeline For ‘Clear Direction’ On Infrastructure Talks)

The recently formed group consists of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans who gather to discuss various work and personal topics, the Washington Post previously reported. Biden’s shift in focus suggests the administration is still holding out hope for a bipartisan infrastructure agreement, although there appears to be key disagreements on what such a plan should ultimately consist of.

Biden has “been clear” on “two red lines” since taking office, Psaki said Tuesday: He refuses to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 and inaction is not an option. Amid negotiations, Biden also spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi regarding “efforts to move forward on an infrastructure/jobs package in the House this month,” Psaki wrote.

“In the same regard, the President also spoke with Senate Majority Leader Schumer to discuss the need to commence work on the budget resolution process so that legislation to advance the President’s economic priorities and tax reform plans could move to the Senate floor in July. The President is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer, and is pursuing multiple paths to get this done,” the statement added.