Bipartisan Senate group strikes early $1.2 trillion infrastructure agreement as Democrats grow impatient

Mitt Romney Joe Manchin Susan Collins Kyrsten Sinema Mark Warner
Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mitt Romney of Utah, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona taking a break from a meeting on infrastructure. Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • A group of 10 senators on Thursday announced an early infrastructure deal.

  • The package does not include tax hikes, and only a fraction of it is new spending.

  • It is unclear whether the White House will support the measure.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A bipartisan group of senators announced Thursday evening that they had struck an early infrastructure deal, though it faces major political hurdles in the evenly divided chamber.

The faction includes Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine as well as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana.

The group sprung up as President Joe Biden's negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the chief GOP negotiator, showed few signs of progress until their recent collapse. Now, they are attempting to rescue the negotiations by designing a framework of their own.

"Our group - comprised of 10 senators, five from each party - has worked in good faith and reached a bipartisan agreement on a realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation's infrastructure and energy technologies," the group said in a joint statement. "This investment would be fully paid for and not include tax increases."

They added that they were "optimistic" they could lay the groundwork to attract major support in Congress.

A Republican aide confirmed to Insider that the initial blueprint focused on core infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and broadband. It encompasses $1.2 trillion in spending over an eight-year period and only $579 billion in fresh spending beyond what Congress has already approved.

While it would not increase the gas tax, it would index it to inflation, a measure floated by Romney earlier in the day. That's projected to raise $30 billion to $35 billion over 10 years, per Seth Hanlon, a tax expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

But the early outlines of the deal faced a steep climb to secure votes in both parties, and it is unclear whether Biden will ultimately support it.

"The president appreciates the senators' work to advance critical investments we need to create good jobs, prepare for our clean-energy future, and compete in the global economy," the White House deputy press secretary, Andrew Bates, said in a statement. "Questions need to be addressed, particularly around the details of both policy and pay-fors, among other matters."

Democrats are likely to balk at the omission of tax hikes on large firms and wealthy earners, while Republicans are likely to heap criticism onto the scale of new spending. Democrats narrowly control the Senate with 50 votes, and any package requires 10 Republicans to clear the chamber.

Congressional Democrats in both the House and the Senate are already setting the stage to use reconciliation, a tactic to approve some bills with only a simple majority. Some were starting to lose patience with the crawling pace of the discussions with Republicans.

"I don't understand why these [Democrats] want to give away the store when there are only five Republican votes to gain," one Democratic aide, granted anonymity to speak candidly, told Insider. "That's a completely useless number of votes."

The package may also omit a significant chunk of climate priorities sought by many Democrats, imperiling its chances of passing. Biden's two-part economic package includes an array of measures like support to build a network of electric-vehicle charging stations, research in clean energy, and funds to retrofit homes into energy-efficient units.

Several Senate Democrats, including Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, are threatening to withhold their support from a bipartisan deal if it doesn't sufficiently address the climate crisis. "On a big infrastructure bill, to pass on climate altogether? No way," Wyden told Insider. "Think I'm blunt enough? No way."

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