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Sen. Capito hosts Biden officials for infrastructure meeting

Steven Allen Adams U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito writes down a note while working in her Capitol Hill office.

CHARLESTON — Instead of heading to the White House to meet with officials this week, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito brought the officials to her Tuesday as negotiations on an infrastructure package continue.

Capito, R-W.Va., and Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., met Tuesday afternoon with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, White House Counselor Steve Ricchetti, Director of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese.

“The meeting continued the dialogue on how Congress and the administration can work together to support core infrastructure in a bipartisan way,” said Kelley Moore, communications director for Capito, in a statement Tuesday evening. “Sen. Capito feels encouraged about the meeting.”

According to Politico, Senate Republicans are signaling they may be open to a compromise between the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan infrastructure package proposed by President Joe Biden and the $568 billion Republican Roadmap infrastructure plan developed by Capito and Senate Republicans.

Republicans could be convinced to raise the price of their package to between $700 billion and $800 billion, paid for with a combination of aggressive efforts by the IRS to collect back taxes, the use of public/private partnerships on infrastructure projects, unused COVID-19 relief dollars, and making changes to the gas tax to index it to increases due to inflation.

The Republican Roadmap exclusively focuses on traditional infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, public transportation, rail, drinking water and wastewater, ports and waterways, airports, water storage, and broadband.

The Biden American Jobs Plan includes funding for traditional infrastructure projects, but the plan also includes non-traditional items, such as funding to mitigate the effects of climate change, funding for home healthcare, incentives for purchasing electric vehicles, and job training.

Biden gave a shout out to Capito and Senate Republicans working on the infrastructure proposal during his joint address to Congress on April 28 marking his first 100 days in office. Biden called Capito the week afterward to discuss infrastructure. Capito and fellow Senate Republicans met with Biden at the White House last week for further discussion. While the two sides appear to be far apart, Capito has been cautiously optimistic about the talks.

Some of Biden’s American Jobs Plan can be pushed through the Senate through the reconciliation process that bypasses the required 60-vote threshold to move items through the Upper Chamber, such as the possibility of rolling back former president Donald Trump’s corporate tax cuts to pay for his plan. But other items will require 60 votes, meaning Republican votes will be needed. It’s this leverage that allows Republicans to have a seat at the negotiating table.

Despite two weeks of meetings, several Democratic Senators are calling on the Biden administration to call off negotiations with Republicans and push through the entire American Jobs Plan by reconciliation – a move that could see parts of the package thrown out by the Senate Parliamentarian. Capito spokesperson Moore said that talks between Capito, Senate Republicans, and the Biden administration will continue.

“In terms of next steps, the White House has conveyed that they would follow up with the group later this week,” Moore said.

Capito is expected to give more details about the discussions later today in a virtual briefing with West Virginia media.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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