By Jarrett Renshaw
WASHINGTON, June 24 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will meet with a bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Thursday to discuss their proposed framework for an infrastructure bill as he looks to push a large-scale spending package through Congress despite Republican opposition.
Members of the group of 21 senators, or “G-21,” announced an agreement on a framework on Wednesday after a meeting with White House officials.
Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a member of the group, said they would see how the Democratic president responded and would work to sell the plan to other lawmakers in both political parties.
“I’m hopeful we can get a positive response from the White House today,” he told CNBC in an interview.
The two sides will meet at the White House at 11:45 a.m., the White House said in a statement.
The G-21 talks have focused on a $1.2 trillion, eight-year spending plan, with a mix of new and repurposed funding.
For Biden, securing a large-scale infrastructure package is a top domestic priority.
The White House opened talks with the group after the Democratic president broke off negotiations with Republican Senator Shelley Capito. The White House said her proposals had fallen short of meeting “the essential needs of our country.”
Biden, seeking to fuel growth and address income inequality after the coronavirus pandemic, initially proposed spending about $2.3 trillion. Republicans chafed at his definition of infrastructure, which included fighting climate change and providing care for children and the elderly.
The White House later trimmed the offer to about $1.7 trillion in an unsuccessful bid to win the Republican support needed for any plan to get the 60 votes required to advance most legislation in the evenly split 100-seat Senate. “We came to an agreement on a plan … and we’re just going to try to wrap it up tomorrow,” Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told reporters on Wednesday of the new plan.
A major sticking point had been how to pay for the investments. Biden has pledged not to increase taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 a year, while Republicans are determined to protect a 2017 cut in corporate taxes.
Manchin said the framework encompassed a “long list” of so-called pay-fors and that all new spending would be offset with provisions to cover it, but he offered no specifics.
Congressional Democrats are operating on two tracks.
While they welcomed a bipartisan deal that could win enough Republican support to clear the Senate, they are also planning to bring up a separate measure with significant additional spending on unconventional infrastructure programs, such as home healthcare for the elderly.
That measure would be brought up under special Senate rules for budget bills that would allow it to pass without any Republican support. In that case, Vice President Kamala Harris would be called upon to cast the tie-breaking vote. (Additional reporting by David Morgan, Richard Cowan, Makini Brice and Susan Heavey; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Lincoln Feast)