One set of pointless negotiations allowing Republicans to drag their feet on infrastructure is finally over, but a new one is beginning. President Joe Biden finally pulled the plug on talks with West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito Tuesday, informing her “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,” according to a White House statement.
“The President also spoke with Senators Sinema, Cassidy, and Manchin” on Tuesday, according to the statement. “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.” So the next set of pointless negotiations with Republicans begins. On the plus side, this one is putting Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in the hot seat to find those 10 Republicans they keep saying are going to help do stuff. On the minus side, it’s just spending more time on futility as all the momentum from passing the American Rescue Plan back in March dissipates.
While Biden set these senators loose to do whatever the hell it is they’re going to do, he also spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “to consult with her on efforts to move forward on a jobs package in the House this month” and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “to discuss the need to commence work on the budget resolution process so that legislation to advance the President’s economic priorities and tax reform plans could move to the Senate floor in July.” While Manchin and Sinema are doing their thing, leadership will be on a parallel track preparing for a budget reconciliation package. That can be passed with a simple majority vote, not relying on the 10 helpful Republicans to magically manifest.
That bipartisan group that’s now negotiating, called the G20, short for Gang of 20 if Politico is to be believed (I prefer “The Pretenders”) consists of 10 “moderates” from each party. Here are two of those Republicans: Mitt Romney and Rob Portman.
Meanwhile, Capito is busily revising recent history and poisoning the bipartisan well. “I’m a bit disappointed and frustrated that the White House really kept moving the ball on me and then just finally brought me negotiations that were untenable and then ended the negotiations altogether,” she said on Fox News. The White House, from the beginning, has had two set-in-stone requirements: No new taxes (or fees) on anyone making less than $400,000 annually, and no failure. They might have moved one ball—after the Republicans decided to take money away from pandemic relief to fund their plan, the White House said no, that’s not going to fly. Capito did raise her offers, but without any valid mechanisms for paying for it—new revenue on the people and corporations who can afford it.
Biden did come down on his initial bid, significantly. Like, by about half. He’s dropped from a $2.3 trillion absolutely necessary infrastructure plan to $1 trillion in new spending. The tax hike to 28% that he was going to impose on corporations has been axed, with a new minimum tax of 15%.
It’s as if that never happened with Capito. “While I appreciate President Biden’s willingness to devote so much time and effort to these negotiations, he ultimately chose not to accept the very robust and targeted infrastructure package, and instead, end our discussions,” she said in a statement. Republicans just can’t not be the victims in any scenario, and here she is pretending to have been grievously abused and deceived by Biden, as if he hadn’t been making his position abundantly clear from the outset.
She’s doing her best, undoubtedly with Mitch McConnell at her elbow, to give Republicans every excuse to derail this effort. That is, after they waste a few more months of all our time. That is McConnell’s agenda, always. And if there’s any doubt McConnell has absolutely no intention of giving Biden a win here:
And if that’s not clear enough, here’s his No. 2 guy spelling it out as well.
Maybe, just maybe, this latest effort in futility will prove that to Manchin and Sinema. If, that is, they actually give a damn about getting something accomplished.