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Capito talks to WV press about Biden ending infrastructure talks

MORGANTOWN – Sen, Shelly Moore Capito, R-W. Va., talked with members of the West Virginia press on Thursday about President Biden cutting off negotiations on the infrastructure package she had been spearheading, and about what’s ahead.

Capito announced Tuesday that Biden told her in a phone call that he was calling off talks. She said Thursday, “We made, I think, a very good faith effort to narrow the definition of infrastructure.”

It was an eight-year, $978 billion plan paid for through user fees and some other measures previously reported, but Biden’s approach used tax hikes she and her allies found untenable. And while the $978 billion was what Biden had proposed, he and his staff moved the marker.

“I accept that, because I have to, I guess. I’m disappointed we weren’t able to reach a consensus. I’m disappointed that the president and his team were moving the goalposts on me.”

The Hill reported Thursday that another group of five GOP senators – including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah – say they have reached a tentative deal on a package with a group of five Democratic senators that has yet to go before their respective leadership for blessing.

Capito said McConnell remains open minded and is listening. And the appetite for a deal is still there. “We’ll see what happens in the next several days.” She admitted that separate deals had a “chilling effect” on her own negotiations.

While talks on the alternate package continue, The Dominion Post asked Capito if it’s possible Biden will let the progressive agenda move forward and allow the Senate to pass a broader infrastructure plan through reconciliation.

She said, “I think the president is having tremendous pressures to forget any other kind of negotiations and move directly to reconciliation. … And so he’s got to fight that all the time.”

She said the notion her team’s package had no climate provisions is false. It had measures for electric vehicles, water, resilience and environmental justice, based on bipartisan agreements. But reconciliation will mean huge tax increases for everybody to accommodate the progressive agenda.

“I always think things are possible,” she said, “I think a deal is still possible.” If talks fail and reconciliation happens, “I would not think this exercise is not for naught. I’ve learned a lot. … I’ve formed a relationship with the president. … I think there’s a lot of good things that have come out of this, if not an agreement.” And things that ultimately could benefit the state.

Capito also fielded a question on the For the People Act, the Democratic bill to revamp election law nationwide. Both she and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., oppose it.

“This bill fundamentally changes the way elections were appropriated for in our Constitution,” she said. “States run our elections.” It overrules states’ rights to enact voter ID laws. It reformulates the FEC into a partisan commission. It includes public funding for campaigns. It reshapes early voting and allows for ballot harvesting.

“It’s being painted as a bill that’s going to make sure everybody votes. That’s what we do every day” though secretaries of state and county clerks. She noted that 54 of the 55 county clerks oppose it, too.

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