- Biden held his first official meeting with eight bipartisan lawmakers to discuss infrastructure.
- He told reporters that he is willing to negotiate on both the size and the scope of his plan.
- Republican lawmakers argue his plan is too focused on things aside from physical infrastructure.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
For the first time since unveiling his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package two weeks ago, President Joe Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday to discuss the proposal.
Eight lawmakers, including Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate, Science, and Transportation Maria Cantwell, ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Sam Graves, and Rep. Don Young of Alaska, joined Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office to kick off bipartisan discussions.
“I’m prepared to negotiate as to the extent of my infrastructure package, as well as how we pay for it,” Biden told reporters after the meeting.
He also dismissed the idea that the meeting was just “window dressing,” and said he was “prepared to negotiate as to the extent of the infrastructure project as well as how we pay for it,” citing broadband and clean-water access as important parts of his definition of infrastructure.
-The Hill (@thehill) April 12, 2021
This meeting followed a press briefing earlier in the day, when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden is “absolutely” willing to negotiate on the size and scope of the package.
With regard to scope, Republican lawmakers have argued that it’s too focused on things besides rebuilding physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges. For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement two weeks ago that while Biden could have drafted a “serious, targeted infrastructure plan” that would have received bipartisan support, “the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration.”
And with regards to the size of the plan, Republican lawmakers have said the $2.3 trillion price tag, along with Biden’s proposed tax hikes, are too high.
Ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Roger Wicker, who attended the meeting, told ABC News in an interview on Sunday, “We are willing to negotiate with him [Biden] on an infrastructure package, and this trillion-dollar number is way too high for me.”
He added that negotiations on the plan have to look different than the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan that passed in February without any Republican votes.
Some Democrats have said they’d like to see some changes to the package. Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said on a West Virginia radio talk show last week that he does not support Biden’s proposed corporate tax increase to 28%. “Well, the bill basically is not going to end up that way,” he said.
Psaki emphasized in the Monday press briefing that Biden genuinely wants to work with both parties to create a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“You don’t use the president of the United States’ time, multiple times over … if you did not want to authentically hear from the members attending about their ideas about how to move forward this package,” she said.
Also in the meeting were Democratic Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. of New Jersey, Republican Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California, and Democratic Rep. David Price of North Carolina, who all sit on committees relevant to rebuilding infrastructure.