Pelosi says Biden, Dems want 'big, bold' bipartisan spending bill
Chad Pergram reports from Capitol Hill with details after the vote to expel the highest-ranking GOP woman in U.S. government from her position.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she's feeling even more optimistic now about passing a "big, bold" spending bill this year after meeting with President Biden and congressional leadership at the White House.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said Biden made a "sincere" commitment to finding a bipartisan agreement on legislation to rebuild the country's roads, bridges and more. While there are sticking points on how to pay for the investments and what should be defined as infrastructure, Pelosi said the "positive" meeting focused on finding common ground.
"I felt optimistic about our ability to pass such a bill," Pelosi said Wednesday after the White House meeting. "I'm more optimistic now about being able to do so in a bipartisan way."
Pelosi highlighted two potential roadblocks. She doesn't agree with increasing user fees to fund the legislation, which Republicans want. (She backs Biden's proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy to fund improvements.) She noted that Democrats and Republicans disagreed on whether funding electric cars should be included in any package -- a further indication of the debates ahead on the scope of infrastructure spending.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Peter DeFazio, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP)
Biden hosted the four bipartisan congressional leaders for the first time at the White House on Wednesday: Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Biden proposed a $2.25 trillion phase-one infrastructure and tax plan, plus an additional $1.8 trillion spending plan on family infrastructure, such as free community college, universal preschool and a paid family and medical leave program.
Republicans, meanwhile, made a counteroffer of $568 billion in traditional infrastructure investments, though McConnell signaled he'd be willing to spend up to $800 billion.
Biden proposes paying for the Phase 1 package by raising $2 trillion in taxes over 15 years on corporations so as not to drive up the national debt. The plan includes hiking the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies and increasing the global minimum tax on U.S. corporations to 21% from 13%.
Republicans want to pay for their nearly $600 billion bill through user fees on electric vehicles and other items and repurposing unused coronavirus funds.
The federal government ran an annual deficit of $3.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, more than triple the deficit of the previous year, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. The cumulative national debt now sits at $28 trillion.
Progressives want another massive spending plan and say the $4 trillion total that Biden proposed still falls short. Pelosi has a slim a seven-seat majority currently in the House and can only afford to lose three votes from her side if Democrats want to pass a bill without GOP support. But if Democrats open the door to a smaller package with Republicans, Pelosi risks losing some of her most liberal members, as well.
Members of the media are escorted out as President Joe Biden meets with congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Washington. Clockwise from left, Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Pelosi summed up her strategy on the infrastructure bill, saying: "Big, bold, as soon as we can [and] as bipartisan as possible."
McConnell and McCarthy also struck an optimistic tone about a bipartisan deal after leaving the White House as long as Democrats don't try to roll back the 2017 GOP tax cuts on corporations and wealthy individuals and narrow the scope of infrastructure spending to traditional physical structures.
"We have to start with the definition of infrastructure," McCarthy said. "... That’s roads, bridges, highways, airports, broadband – those are the places we can find common ground and work together."