Politics Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal
On The Money: Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal, warn of time crunch
Happy Friday and welcome back to On The Money, where we're getting FOMO from Mike Pence's gorgeous new house. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.See something I missed? Let me know at email@example.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.Write us with tips, suggestions and news: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane, @NJagoda and @NivElis.
Progressive Democrats are wary of an emerging deal on infrastructure being negotiated by five Republican and five Democratic senators, fearing it could make it tougher to get prized priorities to President Biden's desk.
The progressives are specifically worried that passing a bipartisan infrastructure package consisting of the most popular infrastructure spending priorities - such as funding for roads, bridges, rail, public transport, airports and rural broadband internet - will make it tougher to marshal support for a bigger reconciliation package down the road.
After crafting $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, bipartisan group of senators start lobbying White House, colleagues
The deal would not raise the corporate tax rate, which Biden had proposed. And it wouldn't hike the 18.4-cent federal per-gallon gas tax.The deal, reported by several media outlets and confirmed by a Senate source familiar with the deal, would focus on traditional transportation programs such as rail, bridges and waterways. It would not include "soft" infrastructure such as climate change and housing, which Biden had called for in his original $2.25 trillion American Jobs Act.
That bigger package could include many progressive prizes, such as climate change legislation, $400 billion for long-term home care, and language to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) fired a shot at the emerging deal Thursday afternoon, declaring it falls far short of what the nation needs.
"The problem is this country faces enormous issues that have been ignored and neglected for a very long period of time," he said. "Even if you look at infrastructure from the narrow perspective of roads and bridges, it's inadequate. That's not me talking, that's the American Society of Civil Engineers."
Sanders said the climate provisions in the bipartisan deal are "totally inadequate."
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.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) also expressed fear that climate change may get left aside if Congress moves a scaled-down infrastructure bill.
"We need a big climate bill - and fast - to stay in nature's 1.5 degrees C safe zone," Whitehouse tweeted Thursday.
Moderate Democrats are embracing the scaled-down spending goal as a solid investment in the nation's infrastructure needs. But progressives are gearing up for battle. They argue the "new funding" over existing programs is "inadequate."
And they fear that if a bipartisan bill moves through the Senate with support from Republicans and centrists such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), it could sap political support for moving a larger spending package under the budget reconciliation process later this year.
The budget reconciliation package is unlikely to draw GOP support, meaning every Democrat will have to stick together to get 50 votes, with Vice President Harris then positioned to break a Senate tie.
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.
But Manchin and Sinema have both bucked the party on key issues and moving a bipartisan bill might eliminate some of the sweeteners from a reconciliation package that could win their support.
The $1.2 trillion tentative eight-year deal announced by the bipartisan Senate group includes about $579 billion in new spending on infrastructure, say senators familiar with the plan.
And it would be paid for in part by a hike in the gas tax tied to inflation, an idea already dividing the Democratic caucus.
"I think the gas tax is a fairly regressive way of funding transportation. It hurts rural America especially hard," said Sanders.
There are doubts that the deal being discussed can win support from the White House, which has been cool to a gas tax at a time when it is pushing for tax hikes only on wealthier households. Biden previously told senators in the bipartisan group that he opposed increasing the gas tax, which would hit poor and middle-class families.
One Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment frankly on his colleagues' tentative agreement called it a publicity ploy that probably wouldn't go anywhere. This senator argued the bill is too small to win support from Democrats and Biden, who had pushed for much more in spending.
Biden World on bipartisan infrastructure talks: Little harm in still trying
The White House sees some positive signs to the new round of negotiations. They also see little downside in letting the talks play out.The move to keep bipartisan negotiations going sparked a round of progressive anger Wednesday as liberals warned their demands need to be met, too, and that prolonged negotiations could hamper other big legislative priorities. But even if it were to move forward on infrastructure with just Democratic support, the White House hasn’t finished one of its most important sales jobs: wooing Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.
"We need to be mindful, the American people want something big and bold, that's how we'll be judged," the lawmaker said. "If it fails to meet the moment, it's too small.
"In this instance, bad policy is bad politics," the lawmaker who warned that a package that is too small "is bad for all of us in 2022."
Still, it's not clear where Biden will ultimately come down. News of the emerging deal popped Thursday while the president was on his first official visit overseas.
Biden has sought to coax GOP senators toward him, and threw his support behind the bipartisan Senate effort this week after ending talks with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). He has talked repeatedly of a desire to move on bipartisan legislation and to break Washington's gridlock.
Republican senators who negotiated the $1.2 infrastructure framework said they haven't yet had a chance to present it to Biden or senior White House officials.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), one of the GOP negotiators, said in April that raising the gas tax was off the table because of Biden's opposition.
"The president has said he's absolutely against it so it's dead," Cassidy said at the time. "If he's against it, it's not going to happen."
But some Democrats like the idea, notably Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over infrastructure.
McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is looking to split President Biden from his progressive base by expressing an openness to a possible bipartisan infrastructure deal that is much smaller than Biden's preferred plan.Liberal lawmakers also want a bigger package, and they distrust McConnell, who they think may be aiming to string Democrats and Biden along with signals of support for a bipartisan deal crafted by 10 senators.Yet it isLiberal lawmakers also want a bigger package, and they distrust McConnell, who they think may be aiming to string Democrats and Biden along with signals of support for a bipartisan deal crafted by 10 senators.
"Things worth having are worth paying for. As I've said for the last two Congresses, at a minimum we should index the gas tax to inflation to help fund investments in climate-resilient infrastructure," Carper tweeted Thursday afternoon.
Two Republican senators involved in the talks said that Biden informed Capito last month that a deal must provide at least $600 billion in new spending.
They say their new proposal comes very close to that, with $579 billion in new dollars.
One Republican senator who worked on the deal said a good number of Democrats want to avoid passing all of Biden's infrastructure agenda with a party-line vote under budget reconciliation, which would allow them to bypass a GOP filibuster.
"The Democrats, a lot of them, are not really keen on this big, broad approach to reconciliation," the lawmaker said.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he wanted to review the details of the deal before passing judgment.
"I was told verbally the stuff, I've asked for paper. I'll go look at it," he said. "But we continue to proceed on two tracks, a bipartisan track and a reconciliation track and both are moving forward.
"That's all I'm saying. Stay tuned," he added.
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.