A senior adviser to President Joe Biden said this weekend that while he wants a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, he would likely “change course” if it becomes apparent that Republicans will no longer negotiate.
“As there are meaningful negotiations going, taking place in a bipartisan manner, he’s willing to let that play out,” Senior Biden Adviser Cedric Richmond said on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.” But, again, he will not let inaction be the answer. When it gets to the point where it looks that is inevitable, you will see him change course.”
The White House said Monday that it is continuing to negotiate with Republicans on the bill.
“The ball is in the Republicans court,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during her Monday briefing with reporters. “We are awaiting their counter proposal.”
Psaki said the administration cut some $550 million from its initial $2.1 trillion plan to $1.7 trillion and the Republicans came back with $568 million, but there is still a way to go before reaching a consensus.
“We are eager to engage (with Republicans),” she said.
Both sides have been debating exactly what the term “infrastructure” entails.
Republicans want to limit the discussion to strictly physical items like roads, bridges, and utilities, where the Democrats are including items including institutional systems.
“(The president’s plan is) well above the range of what can pass Congress with bipartisan support,” A member of the GOP negotiating team, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in the Wall Street Journal.
She said the sides remained divided on the scope of the plan and how to pay for it.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put out an olive branch of sorts, saying there could “be an appetite” for a plan around $800 million among his caucus.
“Negotiations should continue, but it’s important to note that there’s a fundamental difference here and at the heart of the negotiations is defining the scope of the bill: What is infrastructure?” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. said in the article. “I think we’re still pretty far apart.”
Biden has said he hopes the sides can come together with something a week from now by Memorial Day, but hopes are dimming for a bipartisan agreement.
While it is not clear what Richmond meant by Biden “changing course,” it could mean that he intends on trying to pass something through without any Republican support.
“I think the president coming down $550 billion off of his initiative proposal, I think shows the willingness to negotiate in good faith and in a serious manner,” Richmond said. “The real question is whether the Republicans will meet the effort that the president is showing. He came down on two areas, infrastructure and broadband, both areas that are important to him. But it is a sincere effort to move this country forward, but the president has been clear. Inaction is not an option.”