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Biden ends infrastructure talks with GOP; Schumer touts bipartisan plan

09 June 2021 IHS Markit Energy Expert

US President Joe Biden ended negotia­tions with Senate Republicans to craft a bipartisan infrastructure bill, but Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, suggested later the same day that another compromise plan by a bipartisan group of lawmakers might be more accept­able to the White House.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (Republican-West Virginia), who led the Senate GOP negotiations with Biden, announced 8 June the president had ended talks following Republicans' offer late last week to increase their previous $928 billion infra­structure counteroffer by $50 billion. Biden said the GOP plan did not come close enough to his $1.7-trillion proposal, which was pared down from his original $2.2-trillion plan.

Biden's American Jobs Plan, announced in late March, would repair existing transportation infrastructure, expand and fix the power grid, and retrofit homes for energy efficiency—among its many programs—all with an eye to creating jobs, reducing carbon emissions, and improving public health. It would include tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs), funding for their charging stations, and extend tax credits for new renewable capacity for 10 years.

Republicans have countered since then with a series of smaller spending bills, which targeted traditional infrastructure such as water and power installations.

After the suspension of talks this week, Capito said Republicans drew the line over Biden's insistence on increasing cor­porate taxes to pay for the new spending, and that she was "disappointed" that he had ended negotiations.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden dropped negotiations because the latest GOP offer "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."

However, Psaki disclosed that Biden has been in talks with Senator Joe Manchin (Democrat-West Virginia) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (Democrat-Arizona)—key swing votes—as well as Senator Bill Cassidy (Republican-Louisiana) on developing another infrastructure deal. She said Biden will continue those discussions as he trav­els to Europe this week for a G7 meeting.

"[Biden] 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," she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Schumer hinted that the new bipartisan com­promise in the works could help Biden achieve at least some of his infrastructure objectives. "A bipartisan group…is trying to put something together that might be closer to what the president needs," he said at a news conference before Capito announced the end of negotiations.

Though Schumer did not offer specifics, there had been reports that a group of lawmakers including Manchin and Senator Mitt Romney (Republican-Utah) would offer their own roughly $878 billion infrastructure pro­posal that would involve spending spread out over between five and eight years.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was scheduled to hold discussions and votes on 9 June on two bills that could be legislative vehicles for Biden's infrastructure proposal: the INVEST in America Act, a five-year, $547-billion surface transportation bill, and the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021, which would authorize $45 billion over five years for wastewater infrastructure and related needs.

However, Biden appears to be under the gun to reach some sort of bipartisan infrastructure deal because Manchin has said he will not support a Democratic-only infrastructure bill, and Democrats have only a bare 51-vote majority in the Senate with the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

--This article first appeared in The Energy Daily, www.theenergydaily.com

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