White House: Biden will ‘change course’ if infrastructure talks with GOP stall

A White House adviser on Sunday said President Biden will “change course” on his infrastructure deal if negotiations stall with Republicans — while GOP Rep. Susan Collins said “fundamental differences” between the two sides remain.

“He wants a deal. He wants it soon, but if there’s meaningful negotiations taking place in a bipartisan manner, he’s willing to let that play out,” Cedric Richmond said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“But again, he will not let inaction be the answer. And when he gets to the point where it looks like that is inevitable, you’ll see him change course,” he said Sunday.

Richmond said the administration is still pursuing a bipartisan deal and pointed to the White House’s counteroffer to the GOP infrastructure deal as proof it was willing to “negotiate in good faith.”

He was asked by CNN host Dana Bash if Biden would “narrow his plans” further.

“The president coming down $550 billion off of his initial proposal I think shows the willingness to negotiate in good faith and in a serious manner. And the real question is whether the Republicans will meet the effort that the president is showing,” Richmond said.

The White House on Friday proposed a pared down $1.7 trillion infrastructure bill from its original $2.23 trillion plan to counter a Republican offer of $560 billion.

Cedric Richmond
Cedric Richmond
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But Collins (R-Maine) said Republicans and Democrats are not only far apart on the cost of the plan but on how each party views infrastructure.

“I think negotiations should continue, but it’s important to note that there are some fundamental differences here, and at the heart of the negotiations is defining the scope of the bill. What is infrastructure?” she said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“We, Republicans, tend to define infrastructure in terms of roads, bridges, seaports and airports and broadband. The Democratic definition seems to include social programs that have never been considered part of core infrastructure,” she added.

Sen. Susan Collins
Sen. Susan Collins
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Collins said much of what is in the bill is already included in a bill introduced last year.

“I was glad that the president put a counteroffer on the table, but if you look closely at it, what he’s proposing to do is move a lot of the spending to a bill that’s already on the Senate floor, the Endless Frontier’s bill. So I think we’re still pretty far apart, but this is the test,” Collins said. “This will determine whether or not we can work together in a bipartisan way on an important issue.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) agreed that the question of what should be included in an infrastructure bill is slowing debate as time runs out.

“I think the president would like to get there on a bipartisan deal. Our biggest gap is not the money. Our biggest gap is defining what infrastructure is,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I do think we’ve got about a week or 10 days to decide if we can work together on this or not. I’d like to. I believe the president would like to. The number is too big because the scope of what the White House staff wants to call infrastructure is way too big,” Blunt, one of the Republicans on the negotiating team said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/S

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wouldn’t rule out using the Senate procedure of reconciliation to allow Democrats to pass the measure with a simple majority vote if necessary.

“We would like bipartisanship, but I don’t think we have a seriousness on the part of the Republican leadership to address the major crisis facing this country. And if they’re not coming forward, we’ve got to go forward alone,” Sanders said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

source: nypost.com