Politics Deal or no deal? Confusion rules Senate infrastructure talks
Where do infrastructure talks go from here now that Biden's negotiations with Republicans collapsed?
As new infrastructure talks begin, old differences with Republicans have already emerged.Weeks of negotiations resulted in little headway, with major differences on costs and taxes going unreconciled. Republicans accused the president of changing his demands and being unwilling to compromise on his insistence on "social infrastructure" while the White House said the Republicans' offers didn't meet America's needs.
Senators painted a confusing picture on the status of infrastructure talks as they left D.C. for the weekend, with some claiming major progress and others skeptical a deal is in hand.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a member of a bipartisan negotiating group, said talks are “in the middle stages” but that he did not expect a deal before the Senate left Thursday. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said the centrists don’t have an agreement but “we might,” listing remaining and long-held disagreements over spending numbers and how to pay for it.
Biden, Capito to continue bipartisan infrastructure talks Friday
President Joe Biden will reconnect with Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito on Friday to further discuss a possible bipartisan compromise on an infrastructure bill. Your browser does not support this video The two met in the Oval Office for just over an hour Wednesday afternoon to talk about the $928 billion GOP infrastructure proposal unveiled last week, but announced no major breakthroughs on how they plan to bridge their still substantive differences.
“For some people it’s going to be plenty, for others it’s not going to be near enough. There’s going to be challenges for Republicans and Democrats,” Tester said. “The words [Republicans] use are: we have a general, total agreement."
The negotiating crew of 10 run by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), has not finalized an agreement yet, according to sources in both parties. But they believe they are nearing a framework they can present to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Both leaders have kept track of recent talks.
The senators in the group were mum on the details, though sources close to the negotiations said the number is still around $900 billion over several years, with $500 billion in new spending. Proposals to pay for the package include indexing the gas tax to inflation and using unused covid money. Some Democrats, such as Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), have dismissed raising the gas tax when the GOP is resisting more progressive tax increases on the wealthy.
On The Money: Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal, warn of time crunch
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One source close to the negotiations described the group’s strategy as a “bottom-up approach” and that “the top line will come from that.” But the source did not set a specific deadline to reach a deal.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a close McConnell adviser, said the talks “have promise but it’s a work in progress.” And Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who participated in the most recent GOP negotiations with the Biden administration, expressed skepticism.
“The advantage of the other group Shelley was working with was that it had structure. You had committee staff, those ranking members could probably bring most of their members," Blunt said, adding he'd "be pleased to be surprised" but that he expected negotiations would end with Democrats plowing forward without bipartisan support.
President Joe Biden has sought a minimum of $1 trillion in new spending in previous talks with Republicans and progressives have grown more vocal about keeping climate and spending priorities in the plans. Biden is overseas, complicating the consummation of a global agreement between Senate leaders, the rank-and-file and the White House.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he believed “things are moving in the right direction” but declined to otherwise characterize the state of play. Nonetheless, he was beaming as he left the Senate chamber for midday votes.
The negotiations come as progressives are growing increasingly impatient with the infrastructure talks and are urging Democrats to go it alone, citing the dwindling days on the legislative calendar and the crush of other items on their agenda.
Biden-GOP spending talks hit critical juncture as patience runs thin .
President Biden will speak with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Friday afternoon to discuss a potential bipartisan compromise on infrastructure amid signs the talks are nearing their end as both sides remain far apart on key components.Friday's discussion - slated to take place by phone instead of in-person like the previous meetings - comes as the clock is ticking for striking an agreement.Capito, the lead GOP negotiator, and Biden missed an informal Memorial Day deadline to clinch a deal. Democratic lawmakers, who start returning to Washington next week, are now eager to move forward on an infrastructure package, with or without Republicans.