President Joe Biden on Thursday approved a legislative framework to overhaul the country’s infrastructure system, giving momentum to a bipartisan deal that was concocted after weeks of painstaking negotiations by lawmakers.
“We have a deal,” Biden told the White House after a meeting with senators.
The framework totals about $ 1.2 trillion over eight years, containing $ 579 billion in new federal spending on narrowly defined infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, airports and waterways. Its cost would be offset by various sources of income, but would not include any tax increase.
“We agreed on the price, the scope and how to pay it,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). “It was essential to show that the Senate can work – that we can work in a bipartisan way. “
The deal was negotiated by a group of 10 senators, five Republicans and five Democrats, with a strong contribution from the White House. Twenty senators now support the agreement, a significant number but still far from the 60 votes needed to promulgate it.
Lawmakers say there are some details yet to be worked out as they move on to drafting the numbers and drafting actual legislation, including the most sensitive part of the proposal – how it should be paid for.
“We haven’t written that yet, and in terms of legislation, there’s going to be a lot going on later,” Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters on Wednesday.
The biggest challenge for Biden and other Democratic leaders will be selling the infrastructure package to their skeptical grassroots members. Progressives, in particular, have expressed serious concerns about the bipartisan framework, namely that it does not include strong measures to tackle the growing threat of climate change. They also want some sort of commitment that if Congress passes the tighter bipartisan deal, it will also adopt a broader job package that includes progressive priorities such as child care, senior care. , affordable housing and investments to boost electric vehicles.
The fear of progressives is that some moderate Democrats, like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, will refuse to support a strong second bill in a special budget process known as reconciliation that requires all 50 Democratic votes. – which could lead to a huge defeat of the progressives.
In a CNN interview Thursday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Said it was a “key question” whether all Democrats would support the bipartisan deal on infrastructure.
“We also want to make sure all Democrats are on board for reconciliation,” Durbin added.
“One cannot be done without the other,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) said Wednesday after a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif .).
There is a theory that a deal on a tight trillion-dollar infrastructure deal could ease the delicate reconciliation process for Democrats. The $ 6 trillion reconciliation package that Democrats plan to draft next month would therefore cost a trillion dollars less, making it easier to support moderate Democrats.
But it would all depend on the whims of lawmakers like Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), who have given no indication of committing to supporting legislation up front, and who are unlikely to vote for another package. extremely expensive.
“We have to see what’s in the other plane before I can say, ‘Oh yeah, you vote for this, and I’ll vote for that.’ That’s not what I signed up for, ”Manchin told reporters on Thursday.
The other key player to watch in the process is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Who has taken a hands-off approach to the bipartisan cadre, refusing to attack or categorically endorse it.
McConnell’s actions could determine the fate of the deal, given his influence on the GOP conference. The more Republicans who approve the proposal, for example, the fewer Democratic votes it will take to pass it.
Pelosi, meanwhile, has its own issues to contend with: a House majority with a margin of only a handful of seats and a bloc of progressives who have warned leaders not to let their priorities be left behind.
The California Democrat has vowed to delay voting on a bipartisan infrastructure deal in the House until the Senate passes a strong reconciliation plan. This move would maximize his influence, but could potentially create a messy standoff with the Democrats in the Senate.
“We will not consider a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said Thursday. “If there is no bipartisan bill, then we’ll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill. But I hope we get the bipartisan bill.
Democrats want to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure deal and instructions for a reconciliation plan in the coming weeks, setting up what is expected to be a busy and chaotic July on Capitol Hill.
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