President Biden hosted a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers in the White House on Monday evening to discuss his $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan, and Republican attendees said afterward the president seemed genuinely interested in their input. "I'm prepared to negotiate as to the extent of my infrastructure project, as well as how we pay for it," Biden said in the two-hour Oval Office meeting. "Everyone acknowledges we need a significant increase in infrastructure."
"Those are all the exact words that I wanted to hear going into the meeting," Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told The Associated Press. "And so that was really encouraging." At the very least, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) added, "Nobody stormed out yelling 'no.'"
Biden said he is serious about seeking bipartisan support for the bill — "I'm not big on window-dressing, as you've observed," he said — but the Republicans in the meeting repeated objections about the ambitious scope of Biden's proposal, his expansive definition of infrastructure, the price tag, and especially Biden's plan to pay for the bill by raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, from 21 percent. Some Republican participants suggested raising the gas tax.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said Biden was "highly engaged" and the meeting went "well," but reversing the GOP's corporate tax cut is a nonstarter. "I view the 2017 tax bill as one of my signature achievements in my entire career," Wicker said. "It would be an almost impossible sell for the president to come to a bipartisan agreement that included the undoing of that signature."
Cedric Richmond, the White House director of public engagement, said "no one in business" wanted the corporate rate lowered from 35 percent all the way to 21 percent rate in the GOP's top-heavy tax overhaul, and he's reminding business leaders "we would be bringing the rate back to the neighborhood they wanted in the first place. And at the same time, we could fix infrastructure."
Biden and his fellow Democrats have made clear they are willing to try to go it alone if there's no GOP interest in good-faith negotiations, but that would leave no room for error in the ideologically disparate Democratic caucus, with its razor-thin control of Congress. At the same time, Biden's proposal is broadly popular even among Republican voters, as is paying for it by taxing corporations.
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