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Democrats prepared to move on as bipartisan infrastructure talks collapse – Business Insider

  • Biden’s talks with Senate Republicans broke down on Tuesday after more than a month.
  • Schumer said Democrats are looking to pass infrastructure spending alone down the road.
  • The White House is turning to a new working group that is eyeing stimulus money to pay for infrastructure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Senate Democrats are starting to signal they are prepared to ditch Republicans on infrastructure, as the Biden administration’s talks with the GOP collapsed without a deal after more than a month.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats were preparing to use reconciliation, a tactic to approve certain bills with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate.

“We all know as a caucus we will not be able to do all the things that the country needs in a totally bipartisan way,” he said at a weekly news conference. “So at the same time, we are pursuing the pursuit of reconciliation.”

Several hours later, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the chief negotiator for Republicans, announced her talks with President Joe Biden broke down after they failed to resolve major differences.

“I spoke with the president this afternoon, and he ended our infrastructure negotiations,” Capito said in a statement, adding she was “disappointed” in the decision.

“Throughout our negotiations, we engaged respectfully, fully, and very candidly — delivering several serious counteroffers that each represented the largest infrastructure investment Republicans have put forth,” she said.

The West Virginia Republican met with Biden twice in the Oval Office since last month, and both sides were unable to strike an agreement after six weeks of back-and-forth discussions. They were never close to bridging differences on the size and scope of a plan, or on how to finance it.

Biden was seeking at least $1 trillion in new spending, a significant cut from the initial $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan he unveiled in August. Capito’s latest offer that the White House dismissed Friday included only $338 billion in fresh spending — a $700 billion gap.

Now, the Biden administration’s attention is likely to turn to another bipartisan working group that includes Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

Biden also called Cassidy on Tuesday in a fresh sign of the White House’s new efforts to cobble together a new coalition to support an infrastructure plan.

Cassidy told Insider earlier on Tuesday that some of the group’s plan could be financed with money from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law.

“Dollars that have not been used that are still out there — and won’t be used for years — seem like a logical place to go,” he told Insider. The Louisiana Republican also ruled out there being any funding for caregiving in the proposal, saying that goes beyond the scope of infrastructure.

Romney also said the group was eyeing the use of emergency stimulus funds provided to states in their package. “We’ll allow them to use some of the money we’ve sent to them,” he told Insider. 

The Biden administration rejected that measure during the negotiations with Capito. Other Democrats urged quick action after the crawling pace of negotiations with Republicans, arguing they barely budged.

“I think we have to move this up as quickly as we can,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told reporters. “I have not seen any indication that Republicans are prepared to support the kind of serious legislation this country needs.”

Sanders said any reconciliation bill would include both of Biden’s infrastructure plans — the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan as well as the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan. The first is devoted to upgrading roads and bridges, instituting elder care, and revitalize manufacturing among other measures.

The latter plan aims to set up universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, cash payments for families, and a national paid leave program.

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, said Democrats will still need to pass a second bill through reconciliation, along party lines, even if Democrats can agree with Republicans on a smaller physical infrastructure bill focused on fixing roads, bridges and ports. If they can’t, he said, then Democrats will need to include all they can in a reconciliation package.

Casey is pushing for funding for the infrastructure plan to include Biden’s request for a $400 billion fund that would pay for older adults and people with disabilities to get care at home. He dismissed concerns about high spending.

“Those are big numbers but when you consider what corporations and extraordinarily rich people have taken out of the tax code over 40 years, it’s astronomical,” he said. “Even those numbers we are talking about now are dwarfed by the dollars taken out of the tax code because it was rigged.”