Prospects of infrastructure deal fade as Biden ends GOP talks

US Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the lead Republican in negotiations with the White House over a massive infrastructure proposal, said President Joe Biden ended the negotiations with the two sides failing to reach agreeement
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US President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans on Tuesday ended weeks of negotiations on an infrastructure package, with the two sides failing for now to reach agreement on the massive measure.

With the talks over, Biden shifted strategy as he engaged a new, bipartisan Senate group in an effort to reach a compromise.

The White House and top Republican negotiator Senator Shelley Moore Capito each said they could not agree on the scope of a bill to fund a huge national upgrade to roads, public transport, bridges, ports, broadband internet and other elements.

"I spoke with the president this afternoon, and he ended our infrastructure negotiations," Capito said in a statement, adding that she was "disappointed" but noting that the talks were respectful and candid throughout.

The White House last week had proposed reducing the cost of Biden's $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan to $1.7 trillion by having other bills cover some of the projects it would pay for and cutting out some spending altogether.

Republicans countered with a proposal of $928 billion but squabbling ensued over how to pay for the projects.

Capito said Biden "made it clear" that he was willing to accept a compromise near $1 trillion, but that he was not willing to abide by the Republican red line of not undoing any of the 2017 tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

"Despite the progress we made in our negotiations, the president continued to respond with offers that included tax increases as his pay for, instead of several practical options that would have not been harmful to individuals, families, and small businesses," Capito said.

- 'Disappointment' for Biden -

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden made clear to Capito Tuesday "that the latest offer from her group did not, in his view, meet the essential needs of our country to restore our roads and bridges, prepare us for our clean energy future, and create jobs."

The Republican negotiators had balked at provisions in Biden's proposal including modernizing public schools, improving care services under Medicaid and increasing climate change resiliency through projects like retrofitting more than two million homes.

The opposition party also had said it wanted to use billions of dollars in unspent Covid-19 relief funds to pay for infrastructure.

Biden "expressed his disappointment that, while he was willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by only $150 billion," Psaki said.

Amid the finger-pointing, Biden shifted his strategy, with the White House saying the president held talks Tuesday with a new group of senators that include one Senate Republican and two moderate Senate Democrats.

"He urged them to continue their work with other Democrats and Republicans to develop a bipartisan proposal that he hopes will be more responsive to the country’s pressing infrastructure needs," Psaki said.

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