In Infrastructure Talks With Biden, Capito Faces Fraught Path to Deal

The difficulty of maintaining roads and bridges that wind through mountains, coupled with a declining lack of revenue in part from the state’s beleaguered coal industry, contributed to a D rating from the state’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers in December. (The country overall received a C-.)

“I drove over six bridges to take my kids to school — statistically speaking, one of those are structurally deficient,” said Tabitha Lafferre, an assistant professor of engineering technology at Fairmont State University and one of the lead engineers on the report card. “That bill is now overdue as far as investment and, you know, maintenance and backlogs and things like that.”

In a series of interviews across her state last week, Ms. Capito acknowledged steep challenges in reaching a deal with Mr. Biden to deliver such legislation.

Mr. McConnell has repeatedly raised $600 billion as an acceptable price tag, and Republicans have refused to consider tax increases that would reverse the deep cuts they pushed through as part of the 2017 tax law. Several Democrats, for their part, have dismissed Ms. Capito’s plan as paltry given the nation’s infrastructure needs.

After muscling nearly $1.9 trillion in pandemic relief through Congress without any Republican votes, Mr. Biden and White House officials have insisted that they want Republican support for a substantial investment in infrastructure. While introducing both pieces of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic package, top cabinet secretaries and administration officials have conducted hundreds of calls with lawmakers and legislative staff to walk them through the plans, in addition to holding dozens of meetings and briefings.

“The president and White House have been in close contact with Senator Capito, and we appreciate the good will she’s shown throughout the process,” Louisa Terrell, the director of the White House legislative affairs office, said in a statement. “We hope to continue that conversation this week with the senator, and with any of her Republican colleagues who are willing to negotiate in good faith on a path forward.”

Moderates including Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, are pushing to find a compromise and have applauded, if not fully endorsed, Ms. Capito’s efforts. She readily concedes that her efforts could fall flat without a compromise that Democrats would be willing to accept — or if Republicans refuse to coalesce behind one, leaving Democrats to conclude it would be futile to winnow down the size of their plan in search of a bipartisan deal.

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