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President Biden sits Thursday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as they discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some Senate Democrats are open to paying for a compromise infrastructure package by imposing user fees, including increasing the gas tax and raising money from electric car drivers through a vehicle-miles-traveled charge.

Why it matters: By inching toward the Republican position on pay-fors, some Democrats are bucking President Biden's push to offset his proposed $2.3 trillion plan by focusing only on raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

  • “User fees have to be part of the mix,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told Axios on Thursday.
  • “I am generally supportive of what the president is trying to do, but I think his initial unwillingness to include user fees makes it really hard."
  • In separate meetings with Biden this week, both Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) discussed the possibility of imposing user fees, according to people familiar with the matter.

Driving the news: Senate Republicans emerged from their meeting with Biden on Thursday optimistic about a bipartisan deal, focusing on “hard” infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and waterways.

  • “We think this infrastructure package can carry forward,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said.
  • The president agreed: “I am very optimistic that we can reach a reasonable agreement. But even if we don’t, it’s been a good-faith effort that we started.”
  • He added: “We didn’t compromise on anything."
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: "How to pay for it has long been the area where we need to find more common ground."

The big picture: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Biden during their own meeting on Wednesday that they would not support raising either corporate or personal taxes to pay for his spending proposals.

  • "We both made that clear to the president. That's our red line," McConnell said.

Between the lines: Some Democrats are opposed to relying on user fees to fund new projects because lower-income Americans would pay a disproportionate share of their income to use the same roads as the wealthy.

  • User fees also could be interpreted as a tax increase on Americans making less than $400,000 a year, which Biden promised not to do.
  • “Republicans aren't serious about paying for anything,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Axios.
  • Complicating negotiations, one likely user fee — a potential increase in the federal gasoline tax — isn't popular in rural states. "Hell no, don't raise them," Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said last month.

Go deeper: Other Democrats want to find a way to explore user fees but make them less regressive.

  • “I've asked the commissioner of the IRS to explore for us, whether or not there is a way to somehow give a rebate to lower-income families,” Carper said.

The bottom line: Biden and Republicans have signaled that they first have to agree to the overall size of an infrastructure package and then haggle on how to actually pay it.

  • “The good news is, we all want to build on a big robust bill, and we want to pay for it,” Capito said before heading to the White House. “It's incumbent upon us to be very creative.”

Go deeper

Aug 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Manchin and Sinema advising House centrists

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are privately advising the nine House centrist lawmakers trying to force Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a quick vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure deal, lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: The two moderates who've stirred the biggest frustrations and held the most sway in their party over the infrastructure negotiations are helping allies in the House to stake out — and defend — their centrist position.

Scoop: Trump's new social network quietly courting influencers

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Former President Trump’s elusive new social media network Truth Social — which plans to go public — is reaching out to internet influencers asking them to “reserve their spots” for when it launches in February or March.

Why it matters: The outreach doesn’t mention Trump’s name or affiliation. Some influencers suggest that could be a ploy to enlist their support without realizing the affiliation.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
39 mins ago - Energy & Environment

The electric aviation market is buzzing

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Boeing's $450 million investment in the autonomous electric air taxi startup Wisk is the latest sign of capital pouring into tech that could one day transform urban and regional mobility and curb carbon emissions.

Catch up fast: The aviation giant's latest funding for Wisk will help the California-based company develop the latest version of its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.