infrastructure week continues
8:47 a.m.

The congressional "Big Four" — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — will meet with President Biden on Wednesday to discuss infrastructure. It is the first time the four congressional leaders have convened at the White House since October 2019, and "this meeting will have a different dynamic, to say the least," Politico says.

Biden has "good working relationships" with Pelosi and Schumer, and "a cordial rapport" with McConnell, Politico reports, "but McCarthy's relationship with the president has been rather ... frosty of late, and that's unlikely to change as he arrives at the White House after dethroning a member of his own leadership team" for pointing out that Biden is the legitimate president.

If Biden does manage to get a bipartisan infrastructure package, it will likely be because he struck a deal "with rank-and-file members, not the party leadership," though, Politico says, which is "probably why Biden has prioritized meeting with backbenchers since Inauguration Day."

In fact, Biden has already hosted Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Tom Carper (D-Del.) this week for infrastructure talks, and he will sit down with a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the GOP's infrastructure liaison, on Thursday. Negotiating a bipartisan roads-and-bridges infrastructure deal is Biden's Plan A, but if that falls through, Plan B requires buy-in for a Democrats-only package from Manchin and Sinema, the Senate's swing votes.

Manchin said after meeting Biden on Monday they had "a great conversation" that covered a lot of ground, and mostly common ground. Biden "wants things to happen, I agree with him," Manchin said. "He understands. He's up on everything. He knows what's going on, trust me. He's well-versed in what's going on." Peter Weber

April 20, 2021

President Biden hosted another bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers on Monday to discuss his infrastructure proposal, and once again everyone said the meeting was cordial and respectful, Biden and his guests expressed a willingness to compromise on the size and scope of the bill, and the Republicans said they won't support raising the corporate tax rate to pay for the package.

Biden wants to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, from 21 percent, to fund $2.25 trillion in spending. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has suggested a 25 percent rate, and there's speculation Democrats will settle around that number. "You could see a 2 or 3 percent increase — maybe not all the way to 28 but 25," Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who was at Monday's meeting, told The Wall Street Journal. GOP lawmakers were "more in favor of user fees so that whoever was benefiting from that particular infrastructure project would be paying for it in the long run," said Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.), another participant.

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) both said after the meeting they favor paying for new infrastructure with gas taxes, user fees, and other mechanisms that don't hit corporations. "There is broad support for infrastructure, and I believe a bipartisan bill is possible, but we need to find agreement to make these updates in a targeted way that doesn't raise taxes," Hoeven said.

Biden opposes user fees, gas taxes, or any other funding mechanism that hits the middle class, and the opposition from Romney and Hoeven suggests he'll get no GOP support for raising corporate taxes, Axios says. Biden told Republicans he won't wait forever for a counteroffer. "He'd like for the Republicans to, you know, for us to come back with some kind of proposal on infrastructure by about mid-May," Giménez said.

Meanwhile, "progressives are warning the president not to get too attached to his GOP friends," Politico reports. Biden "should approach the negotiations with an open mind and an open heart, but he should not delay," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. "We can't end up months from now with no real progress and no real infrastructure bill."

"I personally don't think the Republicans are serious about addressing the major crises facing this country," added Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "Maybe I'm wrong, but we're certainly not going to wait for an indefinite period of time. ... They have something to say? Now is the time to say it." Peter Weber

April 13, 2021

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. Peter Weber

February 13, 2018

President Trump promoted his infrastructure plan on Tuesday, which has been blasted by even some conservative critics as "a joke." Released Monday, the White House proposes leveraging $200 billion in federal spending into $1.5 trillion worth of projects, mostly by asking state and local governments to match the funds by as much as a 4-to-1 ratio.

The proposal would also see the government selling off or privatizing assets like Dulles and Reagan National airports, freeways, aqueducts, and electrical facilities.

Politico notes that Trump's plan "is not going anywhere eight months before Election Day — and that's according to Republicans, not Democrats." Jeva Lange

January 22, 2018

A leaked draft of the White House's infrastructure plan has surfaced over at Axios, and although specific funding numbers are not attached, the document offers the first details in what has so far been a fairly confusing process.

What we know: The $1 trillion infrastructure plan is one of President Trump's biggest campaign promises, and there is a lot at stake for his administration in how it gets executed. The leaked document breaks down spending into categories, where infrastructure incentives make up 50 percent of total appropriation and encourage "state, local, and private investment in core infrastructure by providing incentives in the form of grants." Transformative projects, which "must be exploratory and ground-breaking ideas," make up 10 percent, rural infrastructure makes up 25 percent, federal credit programs 7 percent, and the federal capital financing fund 5 percent.

A key detail of the plan is that it prioritizes "projects associated with new, non-federal revenue," transportation expert Yonah Freemark writes, with that accounting for 70 percent of the scoring criteria. "This makes sense as the whole framing of the Trump proposal has been that it is incentivizing '$1 trillion' in spending, "Freemark adds. "This is only possible if other, non-federal, sources of funding become available."

As both Freemark and others noted, grants would also decline from funding upwards of 50 percent of project costs to a ceiling of 20 percent:

Read the full document — which is a draft and subject to change — here, and read more of Freemark's analysis on Twitter. Jeva Lange

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