A top White House adviser said Sunday that President Biden is “open” to negotiation on his $2 trillion infrastructure plan — but a GOP senator said the two sides remain “far apart” as they haggle over how much the sweeping package would cost taxpayers.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said billions of dollars in spending separate Democrats and Republicans.
“The amount of spending for roads and bridges is so slow and split over 50 states over five years. You’re not getting your bridge,” Cassidy said on “Fox News Sunday,” explaining what he tells supporters of the infrastructure package.
“If you want to fix roads and bridges, come where Republicans already are,” Cassidy told host Chris Wallace. “If you’re talking about spending hundreds of billions of dollars on public-sector unions, we’re far apart.”
The president has proposed a two part infrastructure plan, with the first focusing on roads, bridges, and broadband, while the second part would include domestic policies like childcare and pre-K.
To pay for it, Biden wants to raise a number of taxes, including the corporate tax rate.
But Cassidy blasted the pre-K initiative, saying it would be “run” by teachers unions, who he blamed for keeping schools closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The president wants to give universal pre-K, run by the same teachers unions” that pushed for closures, he said.
“Whether or not these programs benefit the people who need it, we don’t know,” he added.
Anita Dunn, a top Biden adviser, said the president has been clear that he’s aware the infrastructure measure is a negotiation and he “knows that negotiation requires compromise at some point, and that he wants to move this package forward in a bipartisan way if that’s possible.”
“We are looking forward to having discussions. We are open to people’s ideas. This is discussion time and idea time for the White House,” Dunn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
She recalled how Biden met with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) last week over Republicans’ $568 billion counterproposals.
“We plan to have serious discussions with Sen. Capito and her colleagues. The president has said his red line is inaction, that we cannot afford not to make these investments in America’s economy and America’s workers, in good jobs for workers,” Dunn said.
She held out hope that Democrats and Republicans should be able to find “common ground” to repair roads and bridges.
“But we also need to build the infrastructure for the future, and that means rural areas need broadband as much as urban areas do for an affordable cost. It means that we need to get the lead out of drinking water. It is unconscionable that in 2021 we still have so many children who are drinking out of fountains at their schools where you have water going through pipes that have lead in them still,” she said.