Clock is ticking for Republicans on infrastructure, Biden officials say

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm discusses diversity in science and technology at Howard University in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm speaks during a roundtable discussion on need for greater diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) at Howard University in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2021. Stefani Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

Democrats will start the process on Wednesday of preparing an infrastructure bill for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, with or without Republican support, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNN on Sunday morning.

“The president still has hope, Joe Manchin still has hope” for crafting a bipartisan infrastructure bill with Republicans, Granholm said, referring to the Democratic West Virginia senator who is seen as a key swing vote.

“But I will tell you the House will start their markup on Wednesday,” she said, referring to preparation of the legislation.

President Joe Biden will discuss deal possibilities with the main Republican negotiator on infrastructure, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, on Monday for the third time, after rejecting Republicans’ latest bill offer on Friday.

The Republican offer included just over $300 billion in new spending to fix U.S. roads, bridges, broadband and other public works, the White House said. Biden is asking for at least $1 trillion in new spending.

“The president is leading us to continue to stay at the table,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on ABC on Sunday. “So we won’t do this forever, but right now there’s good faith efforts on both sides and we’re going to continue the work of doing our job and trying to get a bipartisan agreement.”

The Republican offer “did not meet the president’s objectives,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CBS. “This is not just about getting through this season or some short-term stimulus,” he said.

The administration’s “strong preference” is to keep infrastructure spending bipartisan, Buttigieg added.

Democrats hold a narrow majority in the House, and theoretical control of the Senate, because it is split 50-50 between both parties, and Vice President Kamala Harris acts as a tie-breaker. Any infrastructure bill sought by Biden must be backed by all Democrats and 10 Republicans, or pass through a process called reconciliation along party lines.