- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The White House on Tuesday downplayed the notion that President Biden’s staff — and not necessarily the president himself — is what’s holding up a bipartisan deal on an infrastructure package, as some Republicans have subtly suggested.

“The counter-proposal that our team put forward on Friday was approved by the president, was signed off by the president — every single detail of that was directed by the president of the United States,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “He was in the Senate for 36 years — I can promise you he does not take a hands-off approach to legislating, negotiating, and determining what kind of counter-proposals we should put forward.”

Ms. Psaki faced questions on Tuesday about whether there was any daylight between Mr. Biden and the staff he has deployed to negotiate with Republicans.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune said it’s looking like Mr. Biden is more inclined to strike a deal than his aides are.

“We’ve got people who are working in good faith … to try to get a deal on infrastructure that would be good for our economy and good for the country and could be a bipartisan agreement,” said Mr. Thune, South Dakota Republican. “But at the moment, they don’t seem to be interested in that.”

Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi Republican, had said earlier Tuesday that Republicans planned to present another counter-offer with a price tag very close to what Mr. Biden indicated he would be willing to accept.

“It will end up being the most substantial infrastructure bill ever enacted by the federal government,” Mr. Wicker said. “If the president gets to make the decision, he will accept [it].”

Asked if he was saying it was a staff problem, Mr. Wicker said: “Let me just leave it at that.”

The White House on Friday had offered a $1.7 trillion proposal to Senate Republicans. That’s down from Mr. Biden’s original $2.3 trillion package, though some of the money is being shifted into other legislation that’s moving on Capitol Hill.

Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, are expected to offer another ante after rolling out their own $568 billion plan last month.

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