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Biden rejects latest GOP offer on infrastructure, but talks will continue

The Senate Republican offer included $50 billion more in spending, but Biden conveyed it still "did not meet his objectives," the White House said.
Image: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV., speaks during a visit of U.S. first lady Jill Biden to a vaccination centre at Capital High School in Charleston
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., visited a vaccination center at Capital High School in Charleston, S.C., on May 13.Oliver Contreras / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday rejected Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito's latest counterproposal for an infrastructure deal, but negotiations will continue next week, the White House said.

Biden spoke to the West Virginia senator by phone and she conveyed "a new offer from her group which consisted of an about $50 billion increase in spending across a number of infrastructure programs. 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," press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

She added that Biden would "continue to engage a number of senators in both parties in the hopes of achieving a more substantial package," and that he planned to speak again with Capito, the lead Republican negotiator on the infrastructure package, on Monday.

Capito's office said the "two discussed the Republican infrastructure framework and the Biden administration’s proposal," but offered no further detail.

The two sides remain far apart.

The Republicans' nearly $1 trillion counterproposal, offered last week, included $257 billion in new spending. That's more than their earlier proposal, but even with the additional $50 billion offered by Capito Friday, is far less than the $1.7 trillion proposed by Biden.

On Wednesday, Biden offered Senate Republicans a proposal to pay for an infrastructure package that would include a number of tax increases but would not reverse anything in the 2017 tax cut bill signed into law by then-President Donald Trump. Democrats have warned they might have to pass legislation on their own in a partisan process if an agreement is not reached soon.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has made it clear that he doesn’t want Democrats to advance key items like infrastructure on Biden’s agenda without Republican votes.

Manchin told NBC News Thursday he was hopeful a bipartisan deal could still be worked out.

“I don't think this is going to fall apart. I really don't,” Manchin said following an event with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Asked if he’s ready to pass a budget reconciliation bill that could allow Democrats to advance an infrastructure measure without GOP support, Manchin said, “No, I don't think you should. I really don't. ... Right now, basically, we need to be bipartisan.”

He said he’s not going to bend to pressure from progressive Democrats who want to eliminate the Senate’s filibuster, which requires 60 votes to advance legislation.

“I'm not going to get [in] the situation where I'm placating to different people wanting different things," he said. “I haven't changed. I'm not changing.”

Manchin also said any voting rights legislation considered by the Senate must be bipartisan to gain his vote, saying that a single-party push for Democratic-sponsored legislation is a “disaster waiting to happen.”

House Democrats passed a sweeping voting rights and election overhaul bill over Republican opposition in March, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised a vote on the bill after the committee process.

Manchin also said that he thinks Biden’s comments last week seeming to call him out for voting with Republicans more than with Democrats — which is factually incorrect — were taken out of context. He said he spoke with the White House about the president's remarks afterward.

Julie Tsirkin contributed.