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Biden and key Republican Capito agree to talk again Friday after Oval Office infrastructure meeting


US President Joe Biden gestures toward Senator Shelley Capito (R-WV) during an infrastructure meeting with Republican Senators at the White House in Washington, May 13, 2021.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito wrapped up a meeting on a possible infrastructure compromise Wednesday and agreed to speak again in two days.

The president and lead GOP negotiator had a “constructive and frank conversation” about a massive proposal to invest in US infrastructure, a White House official said. Biden and the senator from West Virginia entered the day with divergent views both on what should go into a bill and how the government should pay for the plan.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Capito stressed “her desire to work together to reach an infrastructure agreement that can pass Congress in a bipartisan way,” Capito spokeswoman Kelley Moore said. The senator is “encouraged that negotiations have continued” and will brief other Republicans before the next discussion with Biden, she added.

The Friday discussion could mark a final effort to move closer to an infrastructure deal before Democrats decide whether to try to pass legislation on their own. The Biden administration has signaled it wants to see progress in the talks with Republicans by next week.

“There is a time limit on this … you’re not going to play this back and forth much longer,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday morning.

She said that “there is definitely a deal to be had.”

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The talks continue a back-and-forth between the White House and GOP as the parties try to find a path forward on a plan to revamp US transportation, broadband and utilities. Republicans have not backed Biden’s proposals to invest in schools, housing, dependent care and green energy as part of a bill, contending it should focus on infrastructure as defined in the past.

The GOP sent Biden a $928 billion counteroffer last week. The president previously trimmed his proposal to $1.7 trillion from $2.3 trillion.

The parties also need to resolve a dispute over how to offset the spending. Biden wants to raise the corporate tax rate to at least 25% from the 21% set as part of the 2017 Republican tax law. He also aims to reduce underpayments by both individuals and companies.

Republicans have said they will not revisit their tax legislation. They have instead called to repurpose coronavirus relief money approved earlier this year. The White House has signaled it opposes redirecting funds and has questioned how much of the aid will be left over.

If they cannot reach an agreement with Republicans, Democrats can try to pass an infrastructure bill on their own through budget reconciliation. It would require support from every member of the Senate Democratic caucus in an evenly split chamber.

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