There is still time for Republicans to make some "additional movement" toward a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, but that can't include a proposal that raises money by imposing user fees on Americans making under $400,000 a year, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Wednesday.
"There are things, for example, that weren't included in their counterproposal that I know for a fact there's a good number of Republican support," Granholm told CNN's "New Day," explaining that there is room for investment in the energy transmission grid and in water infrastructure, both things that have bipartisan support.
However, she said, President Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that he does not want Republicans to return with a proposal that raises taxes on people who make less than $400,000 a year, including the user fee proposals.
"(These are) essentially gas taxes," said Granholm. "The president has ruled that out, but there's a lot of room in between. This is what a negotiation is all about, and hopefully today we can make significant progress toward closing the gap."
Biden is set to meet with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WVa., who is leading the GOP's counterproposal presentations on Wednesday, and Granholm pointed out that he continues to believe "very strongly that the current tax structure is skewed" but said a resolution must still be reached.
"He wants to rebalance it in favor of the middle class, the working class, and to close loopholes that allow corporations to offshore and to get away in many cases with not paying any income taxes, and that's not fair either," said Granholm. "There are other ways of skinning the cat, and that's part of this negotiation, but ultimately we cannot sit and negotiate forever. We have to get to an end."
Meanwhile, the Democrats do have some options if a bipartisan agreement can't be reached, said Granholm, but Biden and the White House really do want a deal.
"We're not willing to pull the ripcord on cutting bait until we really make sure that the Republicans are not willing to budge anymore," said Granholm. "Everybody is testing out the other side to see who is earnest about wanting to get to a bipartisan vote and hopefully Shelley Moore Capito and the conversation today can bring along nine other Republicans so that we can get there. I think it's there for the taking. It's just a question of whether, you know, Mitch McConnell will allow it and will have 10 Republican senators who are willing to invest in us, our country.
Granholm also discussed the question of whether companies should be allowed to enforce vaccine requirements, saying she thinks that decision depends on individual companies.
"Some companies have people in closer proximity," she said. "Some companies are dealing with the medical field. You can understand why the exigency for those would be greater. I think getting everybody vaccinated is really important and so whether it's the private sector that sends that message, the public sector, families, friends, we need people to be vaccinated. If you really want your freedom, then get a vaccine. Because then we'll all be free."
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