Thursday, June 24

GOP senators say bipartisan group has infrastructure deal | TheHill – The Hill

Republican senators who are negotiating within a bipartisan group of 10 senators say they have reached a tentative deal on the size of an infrastructure package and how to pay for it.

The emerging deal would spend only a fraction of the $4.1 trillion investment President Biden has called for and would not raise taxes, which could make it a tough sell within the broader Senate Democratic caucus. 

Members of the bipartisan group cautioned Thursday that the tentative deal still needs to be presented to the Senate Republican conference and the White House to see if there’s broader buy-in. 

“We have a tentative agreement on the pay-fors, yes, but that’s among the five Democrats and the five Republicans. It has not been taken to our respective caucuses or the White House so we’re in the middle of the process. We’re not at the end of the process, not at the beginning but we’re in the middle,” said Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyHillicon Valley: Biden gives TikTok and WeChat a reprieve | Colonial Pipeline CEO addresses Congress again | Thomson Reuters shareholders want review of ICE ties On The Money: Bipartisan Senate group rules out tax hikes on infrastructure | New report reignites push for wealth tax Romney presses Microsoft over missing Tiananmen Square images MORE (R-Utah), a member of the group.

Romney said there’s also a tentative agreement to the overall top-line spending number.

“I believe it’s complete but others may have a different point of view,” he said.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPress: Joe Manchin ain’t no profile in courage Senate passes bill to provide payments to ‘Havana syndrome’ victims On The Money: White House sees paths forward on infrastructure despite stalled talks | Biden battles Dem divides | FBI seizes bitcoin ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline MORE (R-Maine), another member of the group, confirmed there is a tentative deal and called it a “significant” sign of progress.

“Among the ten of us there is a tentative agreement on a framework but obviously there’s a long ways to go. I would not say that we have the leaders on board or we have started negotiating with the White House but I think having 10 senators come together and reach an agreement on a framework is significant,” she said.

Senators familiar with the deal say that it would provide a total investment of $1.2 trillion but the amount of “new funding” for infrastructure priorities is closer to $600 billion.

One of the financing options is to offset some of the cost of the package is to index the gas tax to inflation. The gas tax was last raised in 1993 and Biden has previously indicated he is not a fan of the index idea.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier on Thursday that Republicans “haven’t given up hope” for a bipartisan infrastructure deal with the Biden administration.

“We haven’t given up hope that we’ll be able to reach a deal on something really important for the country that we really need to accomplish, and that is a major infrastructure bill,” McConnell said during an interview with Fox News.

“Yeah, I think it’s clearly possible. We haven’t given up on reaching an agreement on infrastructure. … I think there’s a good chance we can get there,” he added.

Republican members of the bipartisan group who met with McConnell in his Capitol office on Wednesday said the GOP leader is “open” to their proposal.

Other members of the bipartisan group weren’t quite willing to say they’ve agreed to the overall spending number until they’ve had a chance to bounce it off more of their colleagues. 

“We’re continuing to get input from people. Nothing’s final,” said a senator involved in the talks.

A Democratic senator briefed on the proposal said the top-line spending number of $1.2 trillion is good but warned that finding broader agreement within the Senate on pay-fors may prove to be a tricky task.

The proposal to index the gas tax to inflation is already running into opposition from some Democrats.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOn The Money: Bipartisan Senate group rules out tax hikes on infrastructure | New report reignites push for wealth tax House moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan 35 percent say passing infrastructure bill should be top congressional priority: poll MORE (D-Mont.), a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters that “we put out a top line.”

He said some of the pay-fors still need to be ironed out.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she knew members of the bipartisan group were very close to a deal on the broad outlines of a scaled-down infrastructure spending package and predicted it would be similar to what she offered to Biden in recent weeks.

“They were pretty close, I think, the last time I talked to them,” she said. 

“I haven’t seen the details of their report but I think a lot of what they have is a lot of what I had in terms of definitionally what infrastructure is,” she added.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), one of the Republican negotiators in the bipartisan group, said a key difference between what Senate Republicans outlined last month and what the group of ten Democrats and Republicans are putting together is the new package would include energy provisions that Biden wants.

“This will go back through committees, it will go through Finance [Committee] for the pay-fors, we still have to interact with the president but as far as the group’s concerned, we have a final offer,” Cassidy said Thursday.

The Louisiana Republican said the next step is to sell the bipartisan deal to the White House and the Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses.

“We’d have to, again, have our colleagues, whichever party you’re in, buy into it,” he said, adding the group has to “make sure the White House is OK with it.” 

Cassidy said the Senate group’s top-line spending number is similar to the $1.25 trillion infrastructure spending framework the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus unveiled earlier in the week.

That group’s plan would provide $762 billion in new spending over eight years.

“The Problem Solvers passed something which [is] pretty similar to ours in terms of top line and with the same categories and roughly the same everything else,” he said. “It’s all positive.”

Asked why Biden would accept the deal after he rejected Capito’s proposal, which was not drastically different, Cassidy pointed to a new energy section. 

“We have an energy section in ours that in my conversation with the president said he really wanted,” he said.

Cassidy said McConnell expressed encouragement to Republican members of the group at Wednesday’s meeting.

“We started with Leader McConnell and he’s said based on what he’s heard he’s open to it,” he said. 

This story was updated at 3:29 p.m.

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