President Joe Biden was told by a Republican senator at a White House meeting that the tax hike he’s proposed wouldn’t be approved by the GOP.
For his part, Biden suggested some flexibility toward a smaller package than his $2.25 trillion infrastructure-focused economic plan, another meeting participant said.
Biden said before an Oval Office sitdown with a bipartisan group of lawmakers that he was “prepared to negotiate” on his so-called American Jobs Plan. The program spans traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges to investments in clean energy and funding for elderly care -- a package far broader than Republicans support. It also features corporate-tax hikes.
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 Sen. Joe Manchin’s call for a smaller corporate-tax hike.
Biden is expected to unveil another, social-program focused plan in coming weeks.
Meanwhile, at Monday's meeting, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said he told Biden that GOP lawmakers wouldn’t support the tax hikes that the president has proposed to pay for the $2.25 trillion of spending.
“Clearly there are parts of his program that are non-starters for Republicans to pay for. The pay-for is a problem,” said Wicker, who described the tax cuts enacted under President Donald Trump in 2017 -- which Biden would in part roll back -- one of the greatest achievements of his career.
Wicker said, “It would be an almost impossible sell from the president to come to a bipartisan agreement that included the undoing of that signature” legislation.
Wicker, one of four GOP lawmakers in the Oval Office session along with four Democrats, told reporters that there was disagreement over a broader definition of infrastructure. “I’m willing to broaden it -- it does include ports, it does include rail. It includes passenger rail. I’ll give them all that, as roads, bridges and broadband,” he said. Wicker drew the line at “home health care and things of that nature.”
The White House meeting, Wicker said, lasted an hour and 40 minutes.
Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey said the subject of the federal gasoline tax that funds highway projects came up during Monday's bipartisan sitdown. Payne also said that Biden signaled he was open to a smaller magnitude of spending than what he proposed.
Biden talked about the potential of a gas-tax increase “of 5 cents or something like that and the amount of money that would generate,” Payne said.
The White House appeared to walk back comment on a gas tax, however.
Biden was raising the issue to suggest that there wasn’t sufficient money in a potential gas-tax hike to help make a large dent in funding the infrastructure program, according to a White House official. Biden still isn’t in favor of boosting the gas tax, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Payne also said that one of the Republican lawmakers brought up electric vehicles paying a tax and “the president was open to that.” He also said Biden “is really interested in putting down the infrastructure for electric vehicles.”
The congressman said at a press briefing that, “I think he is willing at a bit of a smaller package” for the infrastructure-focused plan. Nobody but the president talked about specific overall numbers for the package, Payne said. Asked about how genuine he thought Biden’s outreach to Republicans was, Payne said, “Based on the meeting, the president was much more flexible than I was.”
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