11 Republican senators agree to bipartisan infrastructure deal
Washington — Eleven Republican senators said Wednesday that they have agreed to an infrastructure deal crafted by a group of 20 senators from both parties, meaning that the Senate could advance a measure without resorting to the reconciliation process, which would have enabled the bill to pass without any Republican votes, if all the Democrats voted for it.
But it is unclear whether this new measure will receive sufficient support from Democratic senators, who have raised concerns about funding for the bill and the exclusion of priorities such as climate-related infrastructure.
"We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation's core infrastructure needs without raising taxes. We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to develop legislation based on this framework to address America's critical infrastructure challenges," the group of 20 senators said in a statement. However, they did not release any details about the breakdown of the bill, or how it will be funded.
The group comprises Republican Senators Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Mike Rounds, Thom Tillis, Todd Young and Jerry Moran, as well as Democratic Senators Chris Coons, Maggie Hassan, John Hickenlooper, Mark Kelly, Angus King, Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen, Kyrsten Sinema, Jon Tester and Mark Warner.
A smaller bipartisan group of senators announced last week that they reached an agreement for a proposal that would include $579 billion in new spending over five years — the deal that was agreed to by the larger group on Wednesday. This is significantly less than President Biden's $1.7 trillion proposal, a slimmed-down version of his initial $2.3 trillion offer.
The statement from the bipartisan group came as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with Senate Budget Committee Democrats to discuss a budget resolution. This would begin the process of moving elements of Mr. Biden's broader infrastructure agenda through reconciliation, which would require a simple majority to pass the legislation, instead of a 60-vote threshold. Following the meeting, Schumer said it was a "great first discussion."
"I think there was universal agreement," Schumer added. "We have a lot of things we have to do to help the American people. And we have to have unity to do it and everyone has to listen to one another, and it was a good first meeting."
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Budget Committee, noted that the Democratic committee members are unified to produce a budget instruction with options.
"We're going to put together a vigorous instruction that gives us a latitude to do what we need to do," Kaine said. "We could shrink it if there's a bipartisan deal. We could do the broader deal if there isn't."
Meanwhile, several Biden administration officials also met with Democrats in the bipartisan group on Wednesday afternoon. Biden adviser Steve Ricchetti called it a "very cordial and productive discussion."
Democrats are mulling including provisions in the budget resolution related to climate and "caregiving," meaning "human" infrastructure such as child care, health care, and education. The Senate could then pass both the bipartisan bill with support from Republicans, and then a measure including their other infrastructure priorities through reconciliation. Senator Bernie Sanders, who has expressed opposition to the bipartisan bill, said Thursday that Democratic leadership was considering a reconciliation bill that could cost up to $6 trillion.
Any bipartisan bill would need universal support from all Democrats in the Senate, given the narrow Democratic majority. Democrats only hold 50 seats, meaning that they would need every Democrat to back it and support from at least 10 Republicans to meet the 60-vote threshold to advance a bill. But if a few Democratic senators vote against the bill, the loss would need to be compensated with more Republicans voting for it, which is an unlikely scenario. Multiple Democratic senators have said they would not support the bipartisan bill.
Moving forward with reconciliation would require the support of all 50 Democrats, which is not a guarantee. Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are part of the bipartisan group negotiating a deal, have expressed unwillingness about relying on reconciliation. Neither has publicly committed to supporting a reconciliation package including climate provisions and "human" infrastructure if the bipartisan deal is passed either.
Manchin told reporters on Wednesday that he could not commit to supporting a reconciliation bill.
"I would never ask any of my colleagues for an ironclad commitment, unless I could justify it and show them the facts of why I would hope they would work together with me, agree with me. And I expect the same from them," Manchin said. "I'm not a no, I'm not a yes, I'm basically just evaluating everything they put out."
Moderate Democrats may also balk at a potential $6 trillion price tag for a reconciliation bill.
"There's a lot of things that the President laid out there are categories I agree with. Some of the numbers, I don't," Warner, one of the Democrats involved in negotiating the bipartisan deal, told reporters on Thursday.
Alan He contributed to this report.
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