Politics Bipartisan infrastructure negotiations face progressive backlash in Congress
Senate group tries one last-ditch attempt at bipartisan infrastructure deal
A group of senators is making a last-ditch attempt at a bipartisan infrastructure bill with a key part of President Biden’s agenda hanging in the balance. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Susan Collins, R-Me., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., are the latest bid to come to an agreement on an infrastructure bill, which the White House has made its next major legislative priority. Cassidy tweeted Tuesday that Biden had called him to discuss the issue, with the senator saying any “infrastructure package should and must be bipartisan.” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, another member of the group, said Tuesday they had made “good progress.
Congressional Democrats are still split on how to proceed with President Biden’s infrastructure plan, with left-leaning members threatening to torpedo any bipartisan agreement that doesn’t address progressive priorities.
After the White House called off negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., last week because the two sides could not find common ground on a dollar amount for the package, attention turned to a bipartisan group of senators including Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
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.
The particulars of their $1.2 trillion proposal are still murky, but some of the reporting on what the deal might look like has earned scorn from more-liberal Democrats. It’s also not certain that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would have every Democrat in the chamber onboard if they went with the process of reconciliation, which could allow for passage of a bill with all 50 Democratic votes.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., has called for Democrats to ditch bipartisan talks and move on with the process of reconciliation. Jayapal is chairwoman of the House Progressive Caucus, whose members have said they might not support a bipartisan bill if it doesn’t include provisions related to climate change.
The House progressives have been joined by some Democratic senators, with Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., telling reporters Monday night he’s a "no" on the bipartisan bill as he works on the reconciliation process in his role as Senate Budget Committee chairman. Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., held a press conference Tuesday morning where they said they’d oppose any package that didn’t include major climate policies.
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.
“I want to commend their disciplined leadership for giving Democratic senators a chance to work in bipartisan fashion. That’s the way the Senate should operate,” Markey said of Biden and Schumer.
“But, my friends, it’s time for us to put on that classic song by Fleetwood Mac, it’s time for us to ‘Go Our Own Way.’ This is as clear as day: No climate, no deal. We need to move forward with 50 Democratic votes now that the Republicans have shown us they’re not serious about creating clean energy jobs, jump-starting a clean energy revolution or adding the standards and investment we need to attack this crisis.”
The Senate is set to leave town on June 24 for recess, with another break set for August, which is contributing to the current time crunch. Following a meeting with White House officials, a number of top House Democrats said there was a deadline of seven to 10 days to wrap up infrastructure talks, in line with a June 24 departure. Sticking points in the negotiations range from how to pay for the package, and the total size of it, to whether it will include the funding for care workers and climate programs that Biden initially proposed.
On The Money: Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal, warn of time crunch
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House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said Tuesday morning that the White House had told him and his colleagues that they were giving the bipartisan negotiations on a large infrastructure package seven to 10 more days. Biden rolled out his American Jobs Plan at the end of March, which was followed by negotiations in an attempt to appease Democratic moderates who wanted a bipartisan approach.
After a number of representatives expressed a similar interpretation of the meeting with White House counsel Steve Ricchetti, the administrationit disputed the idea of a hard deadline. Yarmuth said he was would end up being done through reconciliation, but added, "That doesn't preclude a bipartisan agreement. If one happens, we just take that part out of the instructions. But right now, we're assuming everything will be in.”
Other Democrats are drawing red lines of their own on any potential package. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.,that she wouldn’t support a package that didn’t contain funding to build electric-vehicle charging stations. If there is no bipartisan agreement, any single Democratic senator or a small bloc in the House could kill the legislation, meaning negotiators have to appease nearly every legislator in the caucus.
Why Bernie’s not sweating White House infrastructure dance with GOP
As other progressives demand Biden end bipartisan negotiations, Sen. Sanders is instead working on the next package.Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the biggest name in national progressive politics, has not expressed concern about clean energy policies not making it into a final infrastructure bill. Nor is he among those loudly criticizing the White House for ongoing talks with GOP lawmakers. That’s because as a group of Republican and Democratic senators are trying to craft a bipartisan deal, Sanders is working in the background, helping jumpstart the next reconciliation package that seems likely to serve as the fallback option.
Democratic leaders have suggested they can manage a two-track approach: Pass the bipartisan bill, and then move a separate piece of legislation containing priorities only supported by Democrats through the reconciliation process. It’s an attempt to give moderates a win while still passing the bulk of Biden’s original proposal, but will require collecting assurances from across the Democratic caucus and at least ten Republican votes in the Senate to pass the first, bipartisan bill.
Manchin declined to agree with that path on Monday evening and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said she would not support breaking the legislation into two bills.
“The bipartisan negotiations have so far yielded a framework that’s completely inadequate,”. “I can’t support any infrastructure package that does not include child care, clean energy and requiring the rich and powerful to pay a fair share to get this done. It has to be one deal not two deals."
White House tries to privately calm Democratic fears on infrastructure deal
The president comes home to a tough call: back a more modest bipartisan deal or go it alone and risk getting nothing at all.On Wednesday, a group of 10 Senate Democrats and Republicans announced that it had agreed on a framework of a compromise. There were scant specifics until late Wednesday night, but negotiators described it as a “historic” investment in infrastructure without raising taxes.
While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last month, reported Monday that Republicans may support the smaller bill, a move that could fracture Democrats and cause Biden to fall short on many of his stated goals. Republican whip John Thune of South Dakota predicted “ ” for the bipartisan plan while predicting that Democrats would be unable to unify behind a more progressive follow-up bill.
“It’ll be awful hard to get those moderate Democrats to be for that,” Thune said of passing a second, broader bill. “The stars are kind of lining up for an infrastructure bill. And if you do do something bipartisan on that, then I think doing something partisan on reconciliation — in some ways, with certain Democrats — it gets a lot harder.”
Read more from Yahoo News:
White House stands firm against increasing gas tax as Biden, senators prepare to meet on infrastructure .
President Biden repeated his opposition to raising the federal gas tax as he and a bipartisan group of senators negotiate on an infrastructure plan.A bipartisan group of 21 senators identified public-private partnerships, redirecting money previously allocated for COVID-19 relief, and "indexing" the federal gas tax annually to match inflation as possible funding options for their $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework, according to a draft outline obtained by USA TODAY.