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White House offers infrastructure counterproposal to GOP, lowering price tag to $1.7T

WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday offered Republicans in Congress a counterproposal on President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan that would lower its total cost from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion, press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki called the counteroffer “reasonable” and said it shifted proposed investments in research and development, supply chains, manufacturing and small-business initiatives into other pieces of legislation, such as the Endless Frontier Act and the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act, or the CHIPS Act.

The new proposal also reduces funding for broadband to match the Republican offer and reduces investments in roads, bridges and other major projects, she said.

Psaki said that the White House’s new proposal continues to push for investments in the care economy, which Republicans have opposed, as well as investments in clean energy and drinking water, strengthening physical infrastructure to be more resilient during extreme weather events, and investments in transit and rail lines.

“This proposal exhibits a willingness to come down in size — giving on some areas that are important to the president, otherwise they wouldn’t have been in the proposal — while also staying firm in areas that are most vital to rebuilding our infrastructure and industries of the future,” she said during the daily press briefing.

May 21, 202101:48

“This is all in the spirit of finding common ground,” she added. “The counteroffer also reflects our view that the Republican offer excludes entirely some proposals that are key to our competitiveness.”

Republicans, who have been pushing a narrower $568 billion plan, were quick to throw cold water on the administration’s proposal. Both parties had set Memorial Day as an informal deadline to reach an agreement, but that timeline looks increasingly unlikely.

A spokesperson for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said in a readout of Friday’s meeting that there continued to be “vast differences between the White House and Senate Republicans when it comes to the definition of infrastructure, the magnitude of proposed spending, and how to pay for it.”

“Based on today’s meeting, the groups seem further apart after two meetings with White House staff than they were after one meeting with President Biden,” the spokesperson added.

Capito has been leading the negotiating efforts for Republicans.

Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, among other administration officials, presented the memo to Republicans during a virtual meeting Friday afternoon, Psaki said.

Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, as well as Capito, were on the call, according to Capito’s spokesperson.

Biden’s counteroffer comes after a Tuesday meeting with senior White House officials and Senate Republicans.

During this week’s negotiations, Psaki said, White House officials reiterated their opposition to user fees as a mechanism to pay for the proposals. The White House has said that Biden views user fees, such as a gas tax, as breaking his campaign promise not to raise taxes on people making below $400,000 a year.

In an interview with MSNBC earlier this month, Biden said he was open to passing parts of his proposal without Republican support if he was unable to reach a deal.

“I want to know what can we agree on, and let’s see if we can get an agreement to kick-start this, and then fight over what’s left, and see if I can get it done without Republicans if need be,” he said.

Sahil Kapur contributed.