By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) — “Everybody’s working,” said a White House aide to reporters as he exited yet another session of negotiation over a bi-partisan infrastructure bill.

But while the talks drag on in Washington, drivers here sit in nasty Mass. Pike traffic as workers repair some of the nation’s worst interstate bridges, according to a new national study.

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One of the negotiators, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), said “we have a good bipartisan bill we’re working on,” with a reported price tag of $1.2 trillion. But the key unanswered question is – how will we pay for it?

Of all the recently-floated ideas, the White House proposal of a minimum 15% tax rate that would end billions in corporate tax avoidance is the most popular at 57 percent in a recent Morning Consult poll. That seems to have replaced Biden’s previous suggestion of hiking corporate taxes to as much as 28 percent, which fell short of majority public support.

And the Republican counter plan to raise gas taxes? Widely unpopular, with just 24 percent approval.

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“Do they believe that rich people should have to pay the taxes they owe?” asks White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “Or should we increase the cost for travelers who are just trying to make it to work?” Republicans say corporate tax hikes would hurt the economy, a claim dismissed by President Biden.

And to David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University, it seems like Biden is “about three or four chess moves ahead” of the Republicans. “You’ve got a crosshairs. You’ve got popular sentiment behind infrastructure crossed with popular sentiment behind taxing the wealthy. And that’s a target that looks good for the Democrats right now.

Keep in mind, if those bi-partisan talks collapse, Biden has the option of using the reconciliation process reserved for spending bills to pass his plan without any Republican votes. Does the GOP want to keep corporate tax hikes off the table so badly that they’ll risk having nothing to show for it while the Democrats take a victory lap?

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We’re about to find out.

Jon Keller