Republican lawmakers left a White House meeting with President Biden signaling willingness to compromise on a bipartisan infrastructure package — if Democrats do the same.
Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), as well as Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Garret Graves (R-La.) all expressed optimism while speaking to reporters Monday about their meeting, which included an equal number of Democratic lawmakers.
Speaking to Fox Business’ “Kudlow,” Wicker said there was some “good news” coming out of the meeting.
“A lot of us want to do better this year on infrastructure than we have before. I’m for a big infrastructure bill. I think the Republican conference would be for it also. So, we agreed, roads, bridges, ports, airports, rail, those are all infrastructure,” the Mississippi senator said, adding that the group also “had a nice conversation about broadband.”
“There was a lot we agreed on,” he said, before noting the areas of disagreement.
“I think to the extent he wants to give broadband to, to government entities, that is a very bad idea. We need to incentivize the private sector.”
Fischer, meanwhile, praised the Biden administration for finding areas of common ground, while warning that they were stretching “the definition of infrastructure so far, it has become unrecognizable,” in a series of tweets after leaving the White House.
“The package they put forth is a policy wish-list full of non-infrastructure spending with a price tag of nearly $3 trillion,” she wrote.
Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Fischer went further with her criticism after thanking the president for the invitation and gesture of goodwill.
“When we’re talking about infrastructure, as the President said, there’s two different definitions out there,” the Nebraska senator said, going on to state her belief that the federal government focus on “traditional infrastructure.”
“That’s what people across this country understand: we need roads, bridges, we need airports, ports, waterways, all of that needs to be taken care of. That’s what you invest in in the country. I also support broadband, as part of that.”
“But when you look at those first four things that I mentioned, they make up a very, very small percentage of this bill,” she noted, reiterating her opposition to the White House proposal as it currently stands.
Young, the longest-serving current member of the House of Representatives who chairs the House Transportation Committee, came to the meeting not only as a legislator, but as an expert on the subject who would be very interested in a larger package.
Not, however, as large as Biden is currently proposing, according to his statement after the meeting.
“President Biden shared my optimism that there is an appetite for bipartisanship, and I appreciated that he listened to my ideas on the scope of the bill and funding mechanisms,” he said before warning, “We must be very cautious about the goals of this bill and even the very definition of infrastructure.”
“Roads, bridges, and ports are undoubtedly infrastructure, and I believe that energy grids, broadband, and clean water can fit the definition as well. But I have concern that moving too far beyond this framework could sink the bill,” he continued, going on to note that he insisted “this bill is paid for.”
Instead of a gas tax, Young said he supported a vehicle mileage tax, which would impact those who were on the road more.
Graves, a high ranking Transportation Committee member, told Politico Monday that Biden had hit the right notes at their meeting, but said he remained skeptical the president wouldn’t end up moving forward on a bill only backed by Democrats.
“The president came out of the gates saying that he was open to discussing cost and scope and the definition of infrastructure. Hearing those words was great, it was exactly what I wanted to hear,” the Louisiana lawmaker said, adding, “Let’s talk through what truly is infrastructure, and what the federal government can do better than what they’re doing today.”
In a tweet alongside the article, Graves wrote, “What’s important now is the follow-through.