Politics Bipartisan Senate group nears infrastructure deal, but still needs to win over party leaders
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.
- A group of 10 Democratic and Republican senators are nearing an agreement on infrastructure.
- They will still need to win enough support within both parties and the White House to get a plan through Congress.
- The proposal likely would not raise taxes, but it is unclear how much it would cost.
Senators from both parties have inched closer to an infrastructure deal they hope to sell as a plan that can get through Congress with bipartisan support.
After 1st round fails, where do infrastructure talks stand?
Almost as soon as infrastructure talks died, they were resurrected under new leadership. © Samuel Corum/Getty Images While President Joe Biden jets off to Europe to attend to international matters, a coalition of Senate Democrats and Republicans are huddled up at the Capitol charting what they hope will be a new path forward on infrastructure. New negotiations bring a whole new host of questions about how a deal on what has become a politically divisive package might be struck and what that deal might look like. Wait. Aren't infrastructure talks over? Think again.
A group of 10 Democrats and Republicans has a "tentative understanding" on a proposal to upgrade U.S. transportation, broadband and water systems, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters Thursday. While Romney did not say how much the plan would cost, he added that the senators will try to gauge their colleagues' interest as they iron out final details.
"I can tell you that 10 people, five Democrats, five Republicans, have come together and agreed on a total and line-by-line spending," he said. "We've also looked at the pay-fors and agreed on that. Is the figure complete and not subject to ongoing discussion? No, but we're close enough to say that we're there."
The senators have tried to craft their own plan after infrastructureWhile the 10 lawmakers have come close to a deal, they still face a challenge in trying to win support from the White House and congressional leaders to make their proposal law.
Bipartisan talks sow division among Democrats
Democratic lawmakers are splitting apart over whether it makes sense to continue negotiating with Republicans on a scaled-down infrastructure package after President Biden ended talks with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead Republican negotiator on infrastructure. A new group of Senate negotiators is looking to pick up where Biden and Capito left off, but that's not welcome news to progressive Democrats, who think too much time has already been spent trying to reach an elusive bipartisan infrastructure deal.
The senators briefed Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the plan Wednesday, and the Kentucky Republican was "open" to it, according to Romney. It is unclear now if the package will be comprehensive enough to appease Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Biden.
While Romney signaled the senators have agreed on, the funding methods could still divide lawmakers. Biden and Democrats have called to raise the corporate tax rate to offset investments, but Republicans have said they will not reverse their 2017 tax cuts.
The proposal will not include tax increases, Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who has joined the negotiations, said Thursday.
"Part of what I'm concerned about is that maybe what we're projecting on the numbers, on the pay-fors, because they're not taxes. They're fees. They're funds. They're different vats of money out there, or pots of money out there, that we can draw out of," he told MSNBC.
Congress' most successful bipartisan gang lives in the House — not the Senate
The Problem Solvers Caucus has heard the jokes about its name and mission. It's trying to prove the skeptics wrong.The bipartisan 58-member coalition known as the Problem Solvers Caucus took something of a half-court buzzer shot this week by releasing its own version of an infrastructure deal, determined to keep talks alive between the president and Senate Republicans at least a bit longer before Democrats bound toward their own party-line bill.
The White House has stayed in touch with the Senate negotiators as Biden targets an infrastructure bill as his second major legislative initiative. The president first put forward a $2.3 trillion plan, but scaled back his offer to $1.7 trillion during talks with Capito.
Biden has asked for at least $600 billion in new spending above the baseline already set by Congress, Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican involved in the talks, told reporters.
While they control both chambers of Congress, Democrats face a complicated path toward passing an infrastructure plan. While they can approve a bill on their own in the evenly divided Senate through budget reconciliation, they have to keep all 50 members of their caucus on board.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has insisted he wants to pass a bill with support from both parties. He could hold up a Democratic proposal on his own. Manchin is part of the negotiating group.
The bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus released its own infrastructure plan this week. The proposal would cost $1.25 trillion, including $762 billion in new spending. The group did not say how it would pay for the investments.
Meanwhile, the House has moved forward with a five-year, $547 billion surface transportation funding bill that Democrats could use to pass major pieces of Biden's infrastructure plan. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Thursday that Democrats aim to vote on the legislation as soon as the end of the month.
Biden's initial plan called for a range of investments in clean energy, housing, schools and care for elderly and disabled Americans, all of which Republicans have called unrelated to infrastructure.
Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal .
Senate Democrats in tough races next year, namely Sens. Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Maggie Hassan (N.H.), say it's more important for an infrastructure spending bill to be bipartisan than for it to fit in all the priorities that President Biden has outlined and his party base are clamoring for. © The Hill Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal The implications for control of the Senate and House after 2022 are not lost on the Biden White House, and the bloc of vulnerable Democrats could carry significant influence over what direction Democrats and the White House pursue in the weeks to come.