WASHINGTON – (TNS) Lawmakers are still tinkering with President Biden’s sweeping infrastructure package, with Republicans and moderates saying a compromise is possible.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat from West Virginia, said on Sunday he had “all the confidence in the world” a deal was within reach on the expansive proposals, which range from highway and sewer upgrades to boosting care for the elderly.
“They’ve come a long way, and they’re moving in the right direction. We have to wait and see the outcome,” he told “Fox News Sunday,” discussing talks between the White House and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the lead GOP negotiator on infrastructure.
However, Biden rejected Capito’s counteroffer to his roughly $1.7 trillion proposal last week. The GOP proposal “did not meet his objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis and create new jobs,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Republican criticism of the package — which includes money for “human infrastructure” like social programs — prompted Democrats to trim about half a trillion dollars from the original proposal.
After the White House rejected an initial GOP counteroffer of $257 billion in infrastructure spending, Capito came up with a new one, adding another $50 billion in projects.
That’s still not good enough, according to Democrats.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham concurred with Manchin on Sunday.
“If Biden can’t pull this off, he’s not trying, because there’s a bunch of Republicans like me that would do an infrastructure bill around a trillion dollars,” said the South Carolina senator on Gray TV. “This is a layup if he wants it.”
Capito has been talking about roughly $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, though only a quarter of that would be new funding, according to Politico.
Last week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the White House was willing to wait until Congress goes back into session on June 7 to seal the deal.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, on ABC’s “Meet the Press,” expressed a sense of urgency.
“There are no firm deadlines here, but there’s a very real sense that time is running out,” she said.
(By Shant Shahrigian, New York Daily News via Tribune News Service)