Biden to speak with GOP Sen. Capito as hopes for bipartisan infrastructure plan dim


(CNN)President Joe Biden spoke over the phone with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the lead Republican negotiator on infrastructure legislation, for five minutes on Tuesday afternoon, as prospects appear to be dimming for a bipartisan agreement.

The West Virginia Republican’s senator’s office confirmed the brief discussion but did not provide additional details about the call.

Tuesday’s conversation was likely the final chance for Capito to speak with Biden before he leaves for his first international trip to Europe. A White House official said staff-level talks will continue while Biden is out of the country, but the President is not expected to be engaged in the discussions after Tuesday’s call.

    Biden and Capito have been in touch frequently since the President proposed a comprehensive infrastructure plan. But talks have dragged on past the White House’s Memorial Day deadline without a significant breakthrough between the two sides, leading to pressure from some Democrats to move on from bipartisan talks.

      While both sides have moved closer to the middle with their proposals, major gaps remain in how much new spending the infrastructure package will include, and how to pay for it.

        Biden invited Capito to the White House last week and offered to bring his price tag down to $1 trillion in new spending.

        On Friday, he rejected a new counteroffer made by Capito on behalf of Senate Republicans that included a $50 billion increase in spending. Biden told Capito that the new offer did not meet his policy goals.

          Capito repeatedly signaled this week that she wasn’t sure where infrastructure negotiations were headed at this point.

          “I don’t think we will come to an agreement today but I still believe there is a deal to be had here,” she said Tuesday.

          Capito also said earlier on Tuesday that she did not feel it was a make-or-break day for negotiations and that she views the call as part of “an ongoing conversation.”

          Hours before he’s scheduled to talk with Capito, Biden appeared to suggest that the door is closing on reaching any type of bipartisan agreement.

          “I’m working hard to find common ground with Republicans when it comes to the American Jobs Plan, but I refuse to raise taxes on Americans making under $400,000 a year to pay for it. It’s long past time the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share,” Biden tweeted.

          Some Democrats are pressuring the White House to walk away from negotiations with Republicans, go it alone and pass a massive infrastructure plan with just Democratic votes. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said Monday that he believes bipartisan talks over a massive infrastructure package have run their course.

          House Democrats on Wednesday will begin preparing an infrastructure bill for passage with or without Republican support.

          A bipartisan group of senators led by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has also been working on a proposal that it could unveil as soon as next week, sources familiar with the effort told CNN.

            Capito said earlier Tuesday that she’s not involved with the group.

            “That really is separate and apart from what I’ve been dealing with,” she said. “I’m sticking with what I’ve got.”

            CNN’s Ali Zaslav and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.