It's starting to look like Republicans aren't going to support the bipartisan infrastructure deal

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a press conference alongside Senate Republicans. Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • It appears that Republicans won't ultimately support the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

  • At least two GOP senators who signed on are criticizing an ensuing Democrat-only spending bill that will move alongside it.

  • Mitch McConnell hasn't said whether he backs the $579 billion agreement.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Senate Republicans are mostly keeping their cards close to the vest when it comes to the $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure agreement.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn't thrown his support behind the package yet, even though it was negotiated by a handful of Senate Republicans that included Mitt Romney if Utah and Susan Collins of Maine. The framework is concentrated on physical items like roads and bridges. It also contains funding for broadband internet, a major priority for both parties.

There doesn't appear to be a lot of enthusiasm among Republicans to back the agreement yet, which could partly stem from the fact that negotiators are still turning the blueprint into a formal bill. Democrats are pressing to finalize the details this week, but Republicans say a bill won't be ready until next week.

A total of 11 GOP senators signed onto the bipartisan agreement, which would be enough for the plan to clear the 60-vote threshold if every Democratic senator voted for it as well.

But some have signaled they could withdraw their support given that Democrats are poised to advance a separate $3.5 trillion party-line package through reconciliation in the coming weeks. That legislative pathway requires Democrats to stick together in an evenly-divided Senate over united Republican opposition - and both measures would be approved on parallel tracks.

'This deal is troublesome to me," said Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, a GOP sponsor, on Wednesday.

Others say they don't want the bipartisan deal's fate to be tied to the Democrat-only plan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted the House will only approve a bipartisan bill once the Senate clears a party-line infrastructure bill. "They certainly can't be connected," Sen. Lindsay Graham, another Republican sponsor, told reporters on Wednesday.

Republicans have also started criticizing the funding mechanisms, potentially making it harder for more Republicans to support an agreement.

Some experts are skeptical that the funding provisions of the bipartisan deal - which include repurposing coronavirus relief funds and unspent federal unemployment aid - will fully pay for itself. Howard Gleckman, a tax expert at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, called it "pixie dust" in a recent blog post.

The GOP is seizing on that given their opposition to growing the national debt. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said in a Tuesday interview that Republicans want "just to make sure the pay-fors are responsible, actually real and not illusory," he said.

Sen. John Thune, the second-ranked Senate Republican, told reporters on Tuesday that a plan that's fully paid for would be a "prerequisite for a lot of Republicans to support it."

A day later, Thune said that the $3.5 trillion spending deal could "put downward pressure on Republican votes" in the weeks ahead.

"I don't think it helps. We have members who truly do want to get an infrastructure bill," he said.

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