New Obstacles On Infrastructure Bill Emerge Left And Right As Bipartisan Group Tries To Craft Deal

Topline

 A bipartisan group of senators has taken on the monumental task of drafting an infrastructure proposal that can appease the White House, House of Representatives and 60 senators, and, one day in, signs are already emerging that lawmakers may be too divided on the issue to string together a compromise.

Key Facts

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said a package that goes “light on climate” should “not count on every Democratic vote” – with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) tweeting he agrees “wholeheartedly” – while Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) noted “the executive branch doesn’t write the bills.”

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), two members of the bipartisan group, told reporters the White House’s desired tax increases are not part of their talks, with Tester conceding that may make it difficult to shore up Democratic support.

Ocasio-Cortez, part of a bloc whose votes have proven vital given House Democrats’ narrow majority, said Biden should “take a step back” and ask if bipartisanship is worth allowing corporations and the wealthy to “not pay their fair share of taxes.”

But the amount of new spending in the package, likely greater than what Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) proposed, will probably make it difficult to get the needed 10 GOP votes to overcome a filibuster, Senate Minority Whip John Thune told CNN.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told Forbes she “would have to see the proposal before making any judgments,” but said the Senate should instead vote on narrower infrastructure bills that have passed committees, stating, “We can’t spend money just to spend money.”

Big Number

$257 billion. That’s how much of the GOP’s nearly $1 trillion proposal would have been new spending, as opposed to funds repurposed from other appropriations. That was far short of Biden’s demand of at least $1 trillion in new spending. The bipartisan group is working towards  $900 billion in total spending, though it’s not clear how much of that would be new funds. 

Chief Critic

“I’d do what I could to frustrate its passage,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) told Politico of an infrastructure bill costing more than $700 billion, adding, “I think we have a growing group of people who are willing to do that as well.”

Crucial Quote

“There are a number of line items that relate to climate change,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a member of the bipartisan group, said of their proposal. However, he suggested Democrats are going to pursue further climate change spending “outside an infrastructure bill.”

What To Watch For

Romney said the group is currently trying to forge a deal that gets support from enough senators on both sides before starting formal talks with the White House. If they fail to garner enough support, Democrats will opt to try to pass a bill through reconciliation – which bypasses the need for 10 Republican votes – though Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has said he’s not on board with that idea.



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