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June 22, 2021, 4:35 p.m. EDT

Biden ‘encouraged’ by ongoing talks on bipartisan infrastructure plan, White House says

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By Victor Reklaitis

President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday continued to sound somewhat upbeat on achieving a bipartisan deal on infrastructure spending, as some of its top officials met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“The president is encouraged by the ongoing talks and discussions that are continuing with Democrats and Republicans,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, adding that senior administration officials had been meeting with a bipartisan group of senators.

Later, she said the meeting was “productive.”

“While progress was made, more work remains to be done. We expect our team to meet again with the bipartisan group later today or tomorrow, as schedules permit,” Psaki said in a statement.

Momentum appears to be growing for a two-step approach to infrastructure spending , according to analysts. With that approach, the bipartisan plan first would draw the 60 votes in the Senate that are needed to bypass the filibuster. Then, Democrats would go it alone to pass a bigger spending package by a simple majority vote through a process known as budget reconciliation.

“There’s a budget reconciliation process that’s just getting underway, which we expect to be a vehicle to move a number of the president’s bold ideas forward,” Psaki said during Tuesday’s briefing.

Related:   A guide to budget reconciliation, which Democrats could use to push Biden’s agenda

Also: Bernie Sanders floats $6 trillion Democratic spending plan for infrastructure, Medicare, drug prices, immigration

The bipartisan proposal features $579 billion in new spending and an overall price tag of $1.2 trillion over eight years. It has the support of 21 senators, including 11 Republicans — enough potentially for the Senate to approve the bipartisan group’s package if all 50 of the chamber’s Democrats back it.

But differences have been persisting on how to fund that proposal’s spending, with Democrats opposing GOP calls to use unspent COVID-19 aid, fees on electric vehicles and indexing the gas tax to inflation.

“We’ve put a lot of different options on pay-fors on the table,” Psaki said.

“Our view is there’s a fundamental question right now: Are Republicans — members of Congress — do they believe that rich people should have to pay the taxes they owe? Or should we increase the cost of travelers, who are just trying to make it to work? That’s the basic question here, so we’ll see if they can make progress on that exact point.”

Biden met on Monday with two key moderate Democratic senators, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, and talked infrastructure /zigman2/quotes/200238288/composite PAVE +0.06% , according to a White House statement.

U.S. stocks /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.05% /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.06% closed modestly higher Tuesday, as investors tracked testimony on Capitol Hill by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell .

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