Biden says he is willing to negotiate infrastructure plan

President Joe Biden holds a meeting with US Senators about infrastructure improvements in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 11, 2021.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden said Monday that he is ready to bargain with lawmakers about changes to his more than $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

“I’m prepared to negotiate as to the extent of my infrastructure project as well as how we pay for it. … I think everyone acknowledges we need a significant increase in infrastructure. It’s going to get down to what we call infrastructure,” the president said ahead of an Oval Office meeting with bipartisan members of the House and Senate.

The president has said he will engage with Republicans skeptical of his proposal and try to win their support for the package. Still, Biden has stressed he will move forward without GOP votes because he considers a jobs plan necessary as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Democratic-held Congress returns to Washington this week from recess with infrastructure at the top of its agenda. Lawmakers will likely take months to craft and pass massive legislation that would affect everything from roads, bridges, airports and trains to broadband, housing, utilities and job training.

Democrats want a large-scale package that addresses policies not considered traditional transportation infrastructure, including an expansion of broadband access and improvements to drinking-water systems and electric grids. Many Republicans have argued an infrastructure bill should only tackle transportation.

Biden said water systems and broadband should be considered infrastructure.

“It’s not just roads, bridges, highways,” he said.

Biden administration officials briefed bipartisan senators on the proposal last week, NBC News reported. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., also started to reach out to representatives about projects they would like to see included in the bill, according to NBC.

Republicans have signaled they will support an infrastructure bill — if Biden slashes the scope and price tag of his proposal. GOP lawmakers have also criticized Biden’s plan to increase the corporate tax rate to 28% to offset the investments. (Republicans cut the rate to 21% from 35% in 2017).

If Democrats choose to pass the bill by themselves through budget reconciliation, Biden will have to navigate dissent within his own party. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has urged Biden to raise the corporate rate to 25% rather than 28%.

At the same time, progressives have pushed the president to take more aggressive action to combat climate change and transition to green energy.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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