Oof. Joe Biden dumped Shelley Moore Capito as a negotiating partner yesterday after failing to get any concessions on new taxes out of her. The Associated Press reported late yesterday that Biden instead reached out to “moderates” within the Senate GOP caucus, hoping to get more traction:
The Republican senators offered a $928 billion proposal, which included about $330 billion in new spending — but not as much as Biden’s $1.7 trillion investment proposal for rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, highways and other infrastructure, including Veterans Affairs hospitals and care centers.
Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 28%, and rejected the GOP senators’ suggestion of tapping unspent COVID-19 money to fund the new infrastructure spending. …
As Biden reaches for a bipartisan deal, he has begun reaching out to other senators, including Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and two key centrist Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who are engaged in a bipartisan talks.
A bipartisan group with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is meeting later Tuesday at the Capitol to negotiate a fresh proposal.
Actually, Biden had come all the way down to $1 trillion, a significant concession from the earlier $2.3 trillion ask. That is important context, especially in the discussion of pay-fors. Biden will get a lot of heat from his progressive flank for cutting his infrastructure plan to less than half of what they wanted, and Biden needs a win from Republicans to soften the blow.
Apparently Biden thought that Capito was the problem. Double oof:
Sen. Mitt Romney, a key GOP negotiator in bipartisan infrastructure talks, insisted that they will NOT agree to tax increases to pay for an infrastructure deal – a key Democratic demand.
“We’re not raising taxes,” Romney told us.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 9, 2021
Who had Mitt Romney as the rock-ribbed conservative of the day on their bingo cards? Rob Portman, perhaps:
Rob Portman, a lead GOP negotiator, also very clearly against tax increases to pay for package. “The last thing we want to do an infrastructure package is to hurt the economy as we come out of COVID, … so taxes would be a huge mistake,” he told me
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 9, 2021
That’s surprisingly firm from Romney, who might have been expected to be somewhat sympathetic to Biden’s plight. Romney hasn’t always been a “no new taxes” sort of Republican, but he and other members of his caucus must be thinking that Biden already has trillions of dollars in his hands with which to work. The COVID-19 relief package passed in March was largely unnecessary except for political expediency, and much of that cash remains unspent. Why force taxpayers to shovel out cash when Congress has already borrowed it?
That leaves Biden without much direction on infrastructure. His progressive wing wants a package bigger than the original $2.3 trillion and force it through reconciliation. That ignores the fact that Democrats don’t have 50 votes for a bigger package and that the Senate parliamentarian essentially ruled any such effort out of order for this year – unless Democrats start the budget process over from scratch, and that’s a nightmare Biden can do without. Unless Biden budges on financing as well as the overall price tag, he’s out of negotiating partners, and Infrastructure Week is once again indefinitely postponed.