President Joe Biden said Monday at the beginning of an Oval Office meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers he is willing to negotiate both the scope of his $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan and how it is paid for.
Biden has pushed paying for the plan in part by raising corporate income taxes.
"It's not just roads, bridges, highways," Biden said, according to The Washington Post. "That's what we're talking about. And I'm confident that everything is going to work out for us."
He said the talks were not just "window dressing."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki earlier Monday said Biden "looks forward to hearing their ideas, and his objective is to find a way forward where we can modernize our nation's infrastructure so we can compete with China," adding, "He's proposed a way to pay for it, which is what he thinks the responsible thing is to do. And he hopes they'll come to the table with ideas."
"It's going to get down to what we call infrastructure," Biden said at the White House Monday. The "American Jobs Plan" spans traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges to investments in clean energy and funding for elderly care — a program far broader than Republicans support. It also features corporate-tax hikes, something the GOP strongly opposes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has targeted passage in her chamber by July 4. The legislation is likely to be reshaped by lawmakers through the process, not least because of moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin's call for a smaller corporate-tax hike. Biden is expected to unveil another, social-program focused plan in coming weeks.
The White House meeting between Biden and eight members of Congress was meant to show that the new president has made good on his promise to end the divisiveness that turned Washington into a permanent dog fight under Donald Trump.
Four senators and four members of the House of Representatives were invited — half of them from each party.
"It's a bipartisan meeting here," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. "I'm prepared to negotiate."
Biden so far has zero support from Republican lawmakers for his giant spending plan, which would pour money into everything from reconstructing the ragged highway system to bringing broadband internet to farming communities and fixing household water supplies.
To pay for this, Biden is proposing a jump in the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent.
What a senior Biden administration official called "a bold once-in-a-generation investment in America" is a must win for a president who has surprised many with his appetite for going big.
Consciously modeling himself on Franklin Roosevelt, or FDR, and his 1930s New Deal program to lift the United States out of the Depression, Biden wants to transform post-COVID America.
Rather than a traditional infrastructure package focusing exclusively on the obvious targets like roads and bridges, Biden wants funds to flood into green technology, schools and every other aspect of the wider economy in a bid to "own the future."
"America's no longer the leader of the world because we're not investing," Biden said last week, referring to the ever-fiercer competition with China.
Polls show broad support from voters for the idea, even if members of Congress are opposed.
Republicans, stung at the way the Democrats forced a $1.9 trillion economic relief bill through Congress in March, say the corporate tax increase will hammer US competitiveness.
Mitch McConnell, the senior Republican senator, said Monday that "less than six percent of this proposal goes to roads and bridges" and would mean "one of the biggest tax hikes in a generation."
Further making the case for the breadth of the proposal, the White House on Monday released "state-by-state fact sheets" listing items including the numbers of roads and bridges in poor condition, broadband coverage gaps and drinking-water funding requirements. The data are "laying out the critical necessity" for the president's program, Psaki said.
Bloomberg News and AFP contributed.
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