A bipartisan infrastructure panel picked up new support Wednesday even as the group struggled to agree on how to pay for the plan.
Five Republicans, four Democrats, and an independent who caucuses with Democrats added their names to the group of 10 bipartisan senators working on a final deal that would spend $974 billion on traditional projects, including roads, bridges, waterways, and broadband. The price tag would include roughly $579 billion in new spending.
“We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs without raising taxes,” the group said in a joint statement.
The announcement comes as the bipartisan group is working to finalize a deal that would pay for infrastructure without a tax increase.
The group announced they had reached an accord last week, but at least one Democrat said the deal is not complete.
“I didn’t put that statement out,” Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, told reporters who asked about the joint statement issued June 10 and signed by the five Democratic members and five GOP members who make up the group. "I signed on to it because we are close.”
The group has yet to figure out how to pay the tab.
Tester told reporters the bipartisan group appears to have dropped a proposal to pay for part of the package by indexing the 18.4 cent federal gas tax to inflation.
Tester said lawmakers ditched it because “it falls directly on people under $400,000.”
President Joe Biden has pledged not to raise taxes on households earning less than $400,000 and indicated he opposes a new gasoline tax.
Tester appeared to significantly walk back the group’s announcement from last week that said it “reached a bipartisan agreement on a realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies.”
Tester said Tuesday the group is “not quite there yet” on securing a final deal.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday told reporters the Senate would continue proceeding on two tracks that would consider the bipartisan legislation, as well as a second bill Democrats would pass using a budgetary tactic called reconciliation that allows certain legislation to pass with a simple majority.
Schumer launched the reconciliation process Wednesday by meeting with lawmakers on a budget resolution. If passed, it would unlock the reconciliation process for Democrats to pass a second infrastructure bill.
“We're on track,” Schumer told reporters as he entered the meeting. “This is one of our two tracks to get a budget resolution that can be supported by our whole caucus.”
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Original Author: Susan Ferrechio