President Biden on Wednesday signaled his openness to “good faith negotiations” on his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal — but bluntly warned Republican opponents of the plan that he would “not be open to doing nothing.”
Mr. Biden pushed back against critics who have argued that his sprawling plan contains elements — such as the renovation of veterans’ hospitals, expansion of broadband internet and anti-poverty programs — that do not fit the traditional definition of infrastructure.
“Ask the moms and dads in the sandwich generation, the folks carrying enormous personal financial strains trying to raise their children and care for their parents, their elderly parents, or members of their families with a disability,” said Mr. Biden. “Ask them what infrastructure they need to build a better life, to be able to breathe a little bit.”
“I don’t know why we don’t get this,” added Mr. Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris as he delivered remarks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, veering off script repeatedly to deliver an impassioned, at times exasperated plea of support.
Mr. Biden’s speech was overtly aimed at Congressional Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, who have expressed nearly unanimous opposition to the plan.
But he was also targeting red and swing state voters, who support projects in their communities, and speaking to moderate Democrats, like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who have suggested they might agree to a corporate tax increase, but one not quite as big as the 28 percent Mr. Biden has proposed. The current rate is 21 percent.
Asked if he was willing to compromise on the corporate rate in his plan — perhaps to 25 percent — Mr. Biden replied, “I’m willing to negotiate,” adding that he was “wide open” to new proposals that would pay for his plan.
“Debate is welcome, compromise is inevitable, changes are certain,” he said. “In the next few weeks the vice president and I will be meeting with Republicans and Democrats to hear from everyone. And we’ll be listening, we’ll be open to good ideas and good-faith negotiations. But here’s what we won’t be open to: We will not be open to doing nothing.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill were buoyed on Monday by a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, saying that Democrats could use the fast-track budget reconciliation process for a second time this fiscal year. The ruling means Democrats can essentially reopen the budget plan they passed in February and add directives to enact the infrastructure package or other initiatives. If they opt to use the move, it would shield them from a filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.
Treasury Department officials said Wednesday that Mr. Biden’s complete tax plan, which also eliminates tax subsidies for fossil fuel companies, would raise $2.5 trillion in new revenues over the next 15 years.
The nonpartisan Penn Wharton Budget Model, at the University of Pennsylvania, estimated on Wednesday that Mr. Biden’s tax plans would raise $2.1 trillion over the course of a decade. Analysts at the group estimate that the plan would spend $2.7 trillion over the decade, and that the programs it invests in would help the economy function more productively.
But they calculate the combination of tax increases and additional government debt incurred by the plan would slow economic growth slightly, leaving the economy 0.8 percent smaller in 2050 than it otherwise would have been.
Treasury Department officials said Wednesday that they were still reviewing the analysis but disagreed with its conclusion, insisting that Mr. Biden’s plans will boost growth.