A tentative deal reached Thursday by a group of 10 senators – five Republicans and five Democrats – to overhaul the country’s infrastructure system as called for by President Joe Biden faces a long road to becoming law.
The group, led by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) And Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), this week drafted a “framework” totaling around $ 1 trillion in investment in infrastructure projects. traditional physical like roads, bridges and waterways. The deal would, according to senators, be fully paid for and include no further tax increases – a red line for Republicans.
“We are discussing our approach with our respective colleagues and the White House, and remain optimistic that this can lay the groundwork for broad support from both sides and meet America’s infrastructure needs,” said the senators in a press release.
Notably, the group has not disclosed any details about the deal or appeared in public to tout its work, a sign that it is perhaps even more hesitant than it suggests.
The biggest problem for the bipartisan group is the math. It takes 60 votes to make the law in the Senate, and for the moment, they only have 10 for a general framework. Trying to get more Republicans on board could bleed Democratic support and vice versa.
“It’s a tough path to go down,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) Told HuffPost. “Say if you have a group of five Republicans and five Democrats, that means you only have five Republicans. And those next five will cost you five Democrats.
Already, some Democratic senators are protesting that key investments to fight climate change have come out of bipartisan negotiations. Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), One of the biggest climate hawks in the chamber, has threatened to oppose the deal if it does not include strong measures to deal with the climate threat growing in the world.
“They have a package that is climate denial disguised as bipartisanship… No climate, no deal,” Markey told MSNBC Thursday.
It is unclear whether Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Who says he is still in “listen mode”, will support the deal. His opposition could sink it, as he has demonstrated on other issues in recent weeks.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, has drawn its own red line. The White House opposes indexing the gasoline tax to inflation or requiring electric vehicles to pay mileage charges to help pay for infrastructure spending, as these measures would violate Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes for people earning less than $ 400,000, according to someone familiar with their thinking. .
The bipartisan Senate group has proposed indexing the federal gasoline tax, an idea that has the support of some Congressional Democrats. They also want to reallocate COVID-19 relief funds that have yet to be spent to help pay for their infrastructure package, which most Democrats oppose. And their proposal would be fully paid without raising corporate taxes.
Beyond the thorny questions on funding, the two parties are still far apart on the size of the package. The new Senate deal, while larger than a previous Republican offer, is still $ 400 billion less than Biden’s $ 1,000 billion demand for new spending on infrastructure projects.
The White House has made it clear that the Senate bipartisan gang isn’t the only game in town, either. Congressional Democrats will soon begin a special budget process known as reconciliation, even as the Biden administration continues to seek GOP votes on infrastructure. Reconciliation will allow the party to avoid filibuster and pass a bill unilaterally in a party line vote.
Top Democrats view bipartisan talks with skepticism, counting the time left to produce an infrastructure bill as the annual summer recess quickly approaches.
“I look at the calendar, I see two more weeks in June, three weeks in July and one in August and then we are in mid-September. I mean, zoom in. Here we go, ”Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Told reporters on Thursday.
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