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President Biden, after remarks on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Biden plans to test Republicans’ appetite to pay for any part of his proposed $4.1 trillion in infrastructure and social spending before deciding whether to pursue one big tax-and-spend package or two smaller ones, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: Biden is wary of boxing himself in, since it would dictate whether he seeks a bipartisan or all-Democratic approach. He told reporters on Wednesday, "I'm willing to compromise. But I'm not willing to not pay for what we're talking about. I'm not willing to deficit-spend."

  • The president's proposal to raise an additional $700 billion from wealthy Americans through increased tax enforcement could be the easiest way to attract Republican support for a pared-down package, according to Democrats close to the White House.
  • Biden will host his first bipartisan meeting with the "Big Four" congressional leaders next Wednesday, May 12, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
  • He'll also meet separately with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who's emerged as a key negotiator for the Republicans' $568 billion counterproposal on infrastructure.

Why it matters: If Republicans agree to pay for it, Biden is more likely to settle for a smaller, bipartisan bill focused on traditional infrastructure such as roads, bridges and broadband.

  • The final infrastructure bill could creep up to $1 trillion during negotiations but would be well short of the president's initial $2.3 trillion proposal. Republican support would be key, since it would need 60 votes to pass in the Senate.
  • Biden would then return to Congress for the remainder of his spending proposals.
  • He'd aim to pass them later in the year via budget reconciliation, a process requiring only a simple 51-vote Democratic majority for approval.

Between the lines: The one-two approach could require Biden to sacrifice many of the progressive priorities in his Build Back Better agenda.

  • A second package, focused on "human infrastructure" such as paid family leave and costing in excess of $3 trillion, could collapse under the bill's overall price tag and complexity.
  • Democrats expect centrists like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to press for a reduction in the size and scope of the second package.

The big picture: Biden initially proposed paying for his first $2.3 trillion infrastructure package by increasing corporate taxes.

  • For his second $1.8 trillion plan, he focused on personal taxes, including raising the top marginal income rate to 39.6%, treating capital gains as regular income and capturing another $700 billion in tax enforcement by investing another $80 billion in the IRS.
  • Despite pairing them that way, he's open to ideas about which taxes should be applied to which spending.

Go deeper: Biden's proposed $4.1 trillion in overall spending could actually be much higher, after the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation provide their official price tags.

  • Biden's initial $1.8 trillion American Families plan would actually cost $700 billion more than the White House has claimed, according to a new analysis by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Budget Model.

The bottom line: By decoupling the revenue-raisers from his spending provisions, Biden has expanded his options to pay for parts of his program.

  • Yet by increasing the likelihood of supporting one smaller bill, he’s potentially jeopardizing his bigger political agenda.

Go deeper

Updated Apr 30, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on Biden's first 100 days

On Friday, April 30, Axios political reporter Hans Nichols and congressional reporter Alayna Treene hosted a discussion on President Biden's first 100 days in office, featuring Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).

Sen. Hickenlooper unpacked bipartisan policy efforts, economic recovery after COVID-19, and climate change initiatives impacting the state of Colorado.

  • On Biden's American Rescue Plan: "He could not get a bipartisan, collaborative bill for the recovery plan...I think he did what he should have done, which is to put a bill together that would not just win the battle against COVID-19, but get us out of this recession."
  • On what he's hearing from Republican colleagues behind closed doors: "What they're saying publicly is pretty much what I'm hearing privately now. Sometimes they will handicap what the probability is of what they think their caucus will do on a specific issue...But I think they're being candid and honest."

Rep. Scalise discussed the Biden administration's infrastructure bill and tension between House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy and third-ranking Republican Rep. Liz Cheney.

  • On an infrastructure bill he would support: "The plans that I've seen that I like and would support would be plans that are fully paid for without new taxes. And what I mean by that is prioritizing existing federal dollars. There are some good plans that do that."
  • On President Trump's role in the Republican party: "President Trump is still a very active part of our party and a vocal leader in our party... So this idea that you just disregard President Trump is not where we are. And frankly, he has a lot to offer still and has offered what he wants to help us win the House back."

Axios Chief Revenue Officer Fabricio Drumond will hosted a View from the Top segment with Bank of America Global Environmental Executive Alex Liftman, who discussed President Biden's policy initiatives around climate change and the role of the private sector in focusing capital in these areas.

  • "[Addressing] big global issues like climate change...has led us to have a trillion-dollar goal over the next 10 years to help our clients to decarbonize...We need to drive a lot of capital to those existing technologies and help sectors, principally high carbon sectors, to implement those technologies."

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

Broadband usage will keep growing post-pandemic

Expand chart
Data: OpenVault; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Increased broadband usage is a pandemic trend that's here to say, analysts and telecom executives argue.

The big picture: Broadband usage increased 40% over the past year, the highest annual growth rate in nearly 10 years, according to new data from OpenVault. The massive jump is attributed to people spending more time at home with their devices, primarily streaming video.

John Frank, author of Denver
May 5, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado transportation plan adds $3.8B in new fees to improve roads and rail

Interstate 70 traffic. Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado residents would pay more fees on gasoline, grocery deliveries, ride-sharing services and electric vehicles as part of legislation that generates $5.3 billion for the state's roads, rails and transit over the next 10 years.

Why it matters: The 197-page measure, unveiled Tuesday by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers, seeks to overhaul how the state spends money on its transportation system.