Senator Shelley Moore Capito said she does not expect to reach agreement on an infrastructure deal with Democratic President Joe Biden on Tuesday, but she does think a deal can be reached at some point.
Speaking to reporters amid expectations for another round of talks with the president, Capito told reporters that she had not heard from Biden but remained hopeful about further discussions later in the day.
"I don’t think we’ll come to an agreement today, but I still believe that there’s a deal to be had here. And I think that’s why we’re both willing to keep talking," Capito, who is leading a six-member Senate Republican team in infrastructure talks with the administration.
Asked if there was a good chance for a deal, the West Virginia Republican replied: "I think there's a chance. I wouldn't say good."
White House officials had said Biden and Capito would speak Monday or Tuesday, but Capito could offer no update on when that conversation would take place.
She rejected the idea that her next round of talks with Biden could be make-or-break for a bipartisan infrastructure package.
"This is going to be more of an ongoing conversation," Capito said.
The two parties remain far apart on one of Biden's major domestic policy goals, disagreeing on how much to spend, how to pay for it and even what constitutes infrastructure.
The White House is seeking a $1.7 trillion package that includes spending on roads, bridges, education and home healthcare, while Capito has offered a more modest $928 billion proposal that Biden has dismissed as too small.
"I'm working hard to find common ground with Republicans when it comes to the American Jobs Plan, but I refuse to raise taxes on Americans making under $400,000 a year to pay for it," Biden said on Twitter on Tuesday. "It's long past time the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share."
On Friday, the White House said Biden also plans to engage with senators from both parties about a “more substantial package," signaling the administration was exploring options beyond the Capito discussions.
The clock is ticking. Later this week, Biden leaves on the first foreign trip of his presidency, to attend a G7 Summit in Cornwall, England.
Democrats are also keenly aware of the risk that they could lose their narrow majorities in either or both chambers of Congress in next year's midterm elections, which would give Republicans the power to block most of Biden's agenda.
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