By Jarrett Renshaw and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden met on Monday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have all served as governors or mayors, as the White House seeks a deal on his more than $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure proposal.
Biden said he handpicked the group of formal state and local leaders, hoping to appeal to their experience as compromise seekers, in his bid to get Democrats and Republicans to come together on an ambitious jobs and infrastructure package.
“I am prepared to compromise and prepared to see what we can do and what we can come together on,” Biden said at the outset of the meeting. “I’ve noticed everybody’s for infrastructure. The question is who’s going to pay for it.”
The group was made up of five Democrats – Senators John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and U.S. Representatives Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, Charlie Crist of Florida and Norma Torres of California, as well as four Republicans – Senators John Hoeven of North Dakota and Mitt Romney of Utah and U.S. Representatives Carlos Gimenez of Florida and Kay Granger of Texas – and one independent, Senator Angus King of Maine.
Shaheen, a former governor, emerged from the meeting optimistic that a bipartisan agreement could be reached. “There is common ground in Congress on these infrastructure priorities – we can and should get this done,” she said.
Gimenez voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Republican then-President Donald Trump.
Monday’s meeting marks the second time Biden was hosting a bipartisan group of lawmakers to try to craft an infrastructure bill both parties will support. The White House’s welcoming on Monday of a lawmaker who tried to block Biden’s presidency outright highlights the hurdles to doing so.
While fixing the country’s crumbling roads and bridges – and asking companies to pay the bill – is popular with U.S. voters, Republicans in Congress say the bill Biden has proposed is too big and mostly oppose raising corporate taxes.
Last week, Biden met with eight members of Congress in the Oval Office for nearly two hours to discuss the bill. Afterwards, Republicans indicated little signs of support.
Biden is pushing a more than $2 trillion jobs-and-infrastructure proposal, branded the American Jobs Plan, that calls for spending on traditional infrastructure projects like roads and bridges alongside other priorities such as addressing climate change and expanding access to home and community-based care.
The money allocated would be spent over eight years and be paid for by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, and by limiting the ability of American companies to avoid taxes by shifting profits overseas.
Representative Crist, a former governor, said Biden felt “pretty strongly” about raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent as part of the package.
He said Biden was “a bit skeptical” about scaling back the hike, as some Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a key vote in the Senate given the razor-thin majority his party has there , have suggested.
Biden, bipartisan lawmakers meet on infrastructure push
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