Biden-Capito infrastructure negotiations have ended

Jen Psaki said the president spoke with a bipartisan group of senators Tuesday.

June 8, 2021, 7:26 PM

Infrastructure negotiations between President Joe Biden and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., have ended.

"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," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"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," she added.

On Capitol Hill, Capito told ABC News, "We had a robust package that we could've made work and I think I could've gotten 20-25 Republicans to go with me."

"They moved the goal posts on me a couple of times and they just decided to walk away," she added.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., talks with reporters as she walks to a vote on Capitol Hill on June 8, 2021, in Washington.
Alex Brandon/AP

Asked what's next, she said, "You'll have to ask him."

The back and forth over infrastructure has gone on for weeks now, with top-line figures for both parties eking gradually toward one another. The sizable cost difference between the two sides was due in part to fundamental disagreements about the scope of the bill. Republicans have argued that things like child care, home care, work training and other "human infrastructure" elements of the White House package have no place in an infrastructure bill.

An administration official said that with the White House moving on from negotiations with Republicans, the president will now turn his focus to engaging with a bipartisan group of senators to find a deal on infrastructure -- a group he would welcome Capito to join.

That engagement has already begun -- Psaki said Biden spoke with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Joe Manchin D-W.Va., on Tuesday.

"He 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," Psaki said.

With talks between Biden and Capito now sidelined, attention on the Hill has turned to that bipartisan group that has been meeting behind the scenes to craft a plan for several weeks.

Sens. Mitt Romney, Kyrsten Sinema, Susan Collins, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner depart after attending a bipartisan work group meeting on an infrastructure bill at the U.S. Capitol on June 8, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Sinema is leading that group, along with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Sources told ABC News their coalition is zeroing in on a proposal with a price tag of roughly $900 billion and the group is planning to share their framework with 20 other centrist-minded senators.

A group of at least 10 moderates met to discuss a possible deal Tuesday evening.

Portman and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who is also involved in the talks, each described their negotiations as waiting in the wings until Capito indicated that her effort had reached its end.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a press conference on Tuesday seemed optimistic that the bipartisan negotiations could yield a result, but the senator was clear the package being crafted behind the scenes is not all that Democrats, particularly the White House and progressives, want to do on the infrastructure front.

Biden has proposed sweeping legislation, including funding for child care, elder care, new schools, and electric vehicles that Republicans consider far outside what is traditionally considered infrastructure. Originally, Biden's proposals were worth roughly $4 trillion.

Schumer, on Tuesday, said that he plans to use a fast-track budget procedure known as reconciliation to push through all of the remaining Democratic infrastructure priorities with just 50 Democratic votes, if a bipartisan deal is obtained.

"That's not going to be the only answer," Schumer said of the Sinema-Portman effort. "We all know as a caucus, we will not be able to do all the things that the country needs in a totally bipartisan – in a bipartisan way, and so at the same time we are pursuing the pursuit of reconciliation. And that is going on at the same time, and it may well be that part of the bill that'll pass will be bipartisan and part of it will be through reconciliation. But we're not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill."

Biden is preparing to depart on his first foreign trip as president on Wednesday. Psaki said he would stay in contact with members of the bipartisan group working on a deal during his trip in Europe, and tasked members of his Jobs Cabinet and White House aides Steve Ricchetti, Louisa Terrell and Brian Deese to meet with them in person to move the ball forward.

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