Politics Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle
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Centrists have gained leverage in the Senate battle over an infrastructure package after 11 more senators backed a $974 billion infrastructure framework.
Twenty-one senators in all are supporting the proposal, which is much smaller than what the White House and liberals prefer. The group includes 11 Republicans, 9 Democrats and an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
Liberals who were calling on fellow Democrats to "cut bait" only a few days ago now grudgingly acknowledge they will have to review the details of what the centrists will come up with before deciding their next move.
On The Money: Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal, warn of time crunch
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And centrist Democrats are touting the support of their 11 Republican colleagues for the five-year spending plan, arguing it is a strong indication that it can pick up 60 votes and pass the Senate outside the budget reconciliation process, which would avoid a filibuster but force all of the Senate's 50 Democrats to stay together.
"There's a lot of momentum," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who helped craft the framework.
"In terms of Republican supporters, I think we're way north of the 11 who are public and there are many more."
The prospect that a significant bipartisan accomplishment could be within President Biden's grasp will make it tougher for progressive Democrats to persuade the White House and their congressional leadership to cut off talks with Republicans.
Senate progressives threaten to tank bipartisan infrastructure deal
Some progressives want a guarantee that Dems would unite behind the use of a fast-track budget tool known as reconciliation that allows them to bypass some GOP objections Those progressives want a guarantee that Democrats would unite behind the use of a fast-track budget tool known as reconciliation that allows them to bypass GOP objections with a party-line vote on a package including, climate, elder and child care and housing.
Only a few days ago, they could make a pretty strong argument that the talks were a waste of time and that Republicans were stringing their colleagues along.
The deal still faces a number of obstacles, however.
Warner acknowledged there are still major differences between centrist and liberal Democrats over the size of a reconciliation package that progressives want to pass in conjunction with a smaller bipartisan infrastructure spending.
But it's clear the endorsement by 11 more senators of the centrists' package has given the group new leverage. Negotiators say they hope to have a package with more details ready by Monday.
"Once we have that package we can send it out to both Democrats and Republicans to see if we can get their support and hopefully we can get a big vote on both sides," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), one of the 9 Democrats backing the package, said on MSNBC Thursday.
Tensions grow between liberals and centrists on infrastructure
Centrist Democrats led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and progressives led by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are at loggerheads over how to move President Biden’s ambitious infrastructure agenda. Manchin fired a shot at liberal colleagues Wednesday when he declared he will not commit to supporting a reconciliation package that progressives want to pack with their ambitious priorities.Asked if he would commit to support a reconciliation package, Manchin said: "I'm not committing to that.""I'm not committing to anything," he said. "I want to look at everything.
Besides Warner and Tester, the other Democrats in the group are Sens. Chris Coons (Del.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats.
The GOP senators are Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Jerry Moran (Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Mike Rounds (S.D.) Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Todd Young (Ind.).
The scaled-down bipartisan package would leave out many of Biden's more ambitious priorities, such as $400 billion for long-term home health care.
And it is much smaller that what progressives want to do.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at a meeting Wednesday with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats floated advancing a $6 trillion reconciliation proposal. The size and scope of a reconciliation bill is widely expected to be negotiated down, but it suggests the differences within the Democratic caucus.
Progressives have called on Manchin and other moderates to promise to support a reconciliation package before they agree to vote for a scaled-down bipartisan infrastructure bill.
On The Money: Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax hike
Happy Friday and welcome back to On The Money. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane and @NJagoda.A fond farewell: Today we say so long and best of luck to Niv Elis, our Baron of the Budget and Archduke of Appropriations, who just capped off his last day at The Hill.
Several are frustrated that the bipartisan package won't raise taxes at all on corporations or high net-worth individuals, who have seen their wealth grow dramatically since the 2008-2009 recession.
"We'll see. I think the key to keep our eye is to forget pay-fors as a concept and think more about an honest tax system that isn't corrupted by big special interests and that is a positive and not just something that pays for something else," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who has warned that he and other progressives will hold back support on bipartisan infrastructure package if there isn't a guarantee to pass ambitious climate-related proposals as well.
There are still questions about whether the pay-fors assembled by the group would actually cover the cost of the plan, and whether Biden would accept controversial proposals to index the gas tax to inflation and repurpose up to $120 billion in unspent pandemic relief funding.
Some Democrats argue the cost of infrastructure spending doesn't need to be offset because it will pay for itself over the long term by promoting economic activity.
"I just don't understand why there's such a fascination with paying for infrastructure," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). "I think you should be much more focused on paying for ongoing annual programing but infrastructure is the one thing you should be completely willing to finance, especially at these low rates."
Biden risks break with progressives on infrastructure
President Biden's relationship with his party's liberal base is being tested by a bipartisan framework on infrastructure spending, which has sparked a revolt from progressives such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).The big question is whether Biden will endorse the bipartisan plan, even though many Democrats are disappointed it leaves out many of their priorities.If BidenThe big question is whether Biden will endorse the bipartisan plan, even though many Democrats are disappointed it leaves out many of their priorities.
The White House have raised concerns about pegging the gas tax to inflation and placing an annual surcharge on electric vehicles.
Senators and outside groups are also raising questions about whether the pay-fors would actually cover the cost of the bipartisan package, something that GOP senators say is a prerequisite for their support.
In particular, it's not yet known how the Congressional Budget Office will score infrastructure financing authority to leverage private investment, direct-pay municipal bonds for infrastructure investment or pouring more money into the Internal Revenue Service to beef up tax compliance.
Asked about how much municipal bond fees would do to offset the cost, Warner said "we're still trying to scrub that down."
"There are still a couple of areas that we're still scrubbing the numbers on," he said, expressing hope that more detail will be known by Monday.
He also said negotiators are still trying to figure out how the CBO will assess the infrastructure financing authority as a pay-for.
Democratic and Republican senators both caution there's still a lot of work to be done on figuring out how to pay for the package.
Tester on Thursday said he doesn't support one of its core components, a proposal to index the gas tax to inflation.
"I certainly don't support the gas tax and it would have an impact on my support for the bill. So hopefully we can remove that gas tax and get another pay-for for that," Tester told MSNBC Thursday. "The gas tax I think could be a real - I don't want to say deal killer - but it could really have some negative effects on who supports it and who doesn't."
Why the infrastructure deal is so important for Joe Biden .
President Joe Biden will validate a foundational pillar of his presidency on Thursday -- a quest to court Republicans across Congress' poisoned divides -- if he signs off on a hard won bipartisan infrastructure deal. © Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images US President Joe Biden leaves after speaking about crime prevention, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on June 23, 2021. Biden's patience seems to have delivered a Senate compromise on the issue that would cut against the prevailing stalemate on Capitol Hill.