Biden hosts more Republican lawmakers in infrastructure push

(NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden will host more Republican senators Thursday in a bid to build more bipartisan consensus on his infrastructure plan.

Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, John Barrasso, Roy Blunt, Mike Crapo, Pat Toomey, and Roger Wicker, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will discuss “the best ways to invest in U.S. infrastructure,” according to Biden’s agenda.

It comes a day after he hosted the top party leaders from each chamber, Republicans Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and Democrats Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

After that meeting, McCarthy and McConnell told reporters at the White House they were encouraged at the prospects of a deal, but maintained their stance that Republicans won’t vote for a tax increase.

“That’s our red line,” McConnell said.

President Biden has proposed a $2.3 trillion plan that would count on higher taxes for corporations and those making more than $400,000 per year. He argues it’s the best way to pay for the plan without adding to the debt.

But McConnell was firm after Wednesday’s meeting that his caucus would not “revisit” the 2017 tax cut bill that lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, and cut taxes for individuals and families.

Another barrier between the President and the Republicans he’ll likely need to vote for whatever package is passed is the definition of what infrastructure is. Biden’s plan includes hundreds of millions in Medicaid and neighborhood building that GOP lawmakers say doesn’t belong in an infrastructure bill.

“Roads, bridges, highways, airports, broadband. Those are the places that we can find common ground,” McCarthy said after Wednesday’s meeting.

Biden has said he’s open to hearing other ideas on how to pay for improvements to the nation’s roads and pipes, but said he’s “not willing to do nothing.”

He’s expected to speak Thursday morning about the Colonial Pipeline hack as proof that the U.S. needs an infusion of investment into its backbone. The pipeline, which carries fuel up the east coast, was hit by foreign ransomware late last week. It restarted Wednesday night, but panic buying could leave stations in states like North Carolina and Virginia dry for days.

The president’s biggest legislative measure, the recent COVID-19 stimulus bill known as The American Rescue Plan, passed Congress without a single Republican vote through a process called reconciliation. It’s a special set of rules that allow a bill to pass the Senate with a simple majority, rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

But moderate Democrats, like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, have said they prefer to pass an infrastructure bill without resorting to that measure.