The Biden administration put forward a counteroffer to its infrastructure plan that dropped the price tag from $2.25 trillion in “additional investment” to $1.7 trillion, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
Biden administration officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, presented the counteroffer to Republicans in a meeting Friday afternoon, Psaki said.
“This is the art of seeking common ground,” Psaki said, adding that the “totality” of the counteroffer will come after the meeting concludes.
The changes involved a “shifting” of spending on research and development, small business, supply chains and manufacturing into other pushes, including the Endless Frontier Act and the CHIPS Act, Psaki said. The new proposal also would cut broadband spending to match the GOP’s offer, and cut investment in “roads, bridges and major projects” to get closer to Republicans.
The White House had been disappointed that a Republican counteroffer didn’t fundamentally change the GOP’s original $568 billion proposal, POLITICO previously reported. President Joe Biden had set a target for “progress” on a sweeping infrastructure package by Memorial Day, a date that is rapidly approaching.
A meeting Tuesday between the White House and Senate Republicans yielded little progress, with the parties still struggling to reach consensus on a definition of infrastructure.
Psaki also said the Republican offer had room for improvement.
“The counteroffer also reflects our view that the Republican offer excludes entirely some proposals that are key to our competitiveness, key to investments in clean energy and in industries of the future, and rebuilding our workforce, including critical investments in our power sector, building and construction, workforce training, veterans hospital construction and the care economy,” Psaki said.
Psaki also said the Biden administration’s counteroffer “pushed” for more funding for “critical transportation” infrastructure like rail, pointing to China’s investment in “such projects.” It also pushed to eliminate lead pipes and fund resilience projects in light of threats from climate change.
Psaki reiterated that Biden isn’t willing to pay for infrastructure by raising taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 annually or through a gas tax or user fees, instead suggesting corporate tax increases would be the pay-for.
“The extraordinarily wealthy … companies, many of whom have not paid taxes in recent years, can afford a modest increase to pay for middle-class jobs,” Psaki said.
Specifics will still be up for negotiation, though, she added.
“I’m not a mathematician, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. But obviously we proposed a package that was $500 billion less expensive, so it needs less pay-fors. But what that looks like will have to be a part of the negotiation,” Psaki said.