President Joe Biden has invited Sen. Shelly Moore Capito back to the White House to discuss infrastructure, the President told reporters Thursday, a week after the West Virginia Republican unveiled a counterproposal to the White House’s $2 trillion package.
“I invited her to come with anyone she wants to bring with her to the White House,” Biden told reporters traveling with him to Georgia. “They’re off next week in the Senate, so I said if you wanted to come next week, that’s fine, but if you want to wait and have our staff talk some more, but she seemed very positive about wanting to do something, and I’m interested to hear what they have to say.”
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Capito said she’d seen “very encouraging signs” from the White House on a bipartisan infrastructure compromise, adding, “We have gotten some good signals back that this is the direction the White House and others want to go.”
Capito, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was one of the first Republican lawmakers to meet with Biden in a bipartisan Oval Office meeting in February. In a tweet Thursday, she wrote, “Had a constructive & substantive call w/ @POTUS about infrastructure. We both expressed our mutual desire to work together & deliver results for the American people. I stand ready to be a partner in advancing bipartisan infrastructure legislation—just as we’ve done in the past.”
Still, Biden hinted that some disagreements may remain, including among members of his own party, like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who’s previously expressed displeasure over the revenue sources and broad definition of infrastructure in Biden’s proposal.
“So I told (Capito) that you could do it in two ways; let’s decide on infrastructure, what they think is infrastructure,” Biden said Thursday. “Let’s decide what is, what are they prepared to consider in terms of what constitutes infrastructure, how much of it, and then can talk about how to pay for it, if we get to the point that we actually have a real number.”
The President also signaled he was willing to move forward without Republicans if they would not meet him halfway, alluding to his administration’s Covid-relief package, which passed through budget reconciliation along strict party lines.
“But if it’s like last time – and I think she’s serious – but if it’s like last time, they came in with one-fourth or one-fifth of what I’m asking, then it’s a no-go for me.”
Though the President may hope to pass a bill with bipartisan support, his fellow Democrats in Congress are insistent that the Republican proposals are not significant enough to address the major physical and socioeconomic issues the country is facing. While Biden continues to talk with the GOP, Democrats are already laying the groundwork to pass the massive spending bill through budget reconciliation, allowing passage without a single Republican vote.
Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, said this week that he is ready to hold a committee vote to advance another budget resolution as soon as next month, beginning the process of passing the plan though reconciliation.