Here’s what we know about the bipartisan $1.2T infrastructure deal
A bipartisan group of 10 senators announced Thursday they have reached a deal on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, the most significant development yet in negotiations over a key priority of the Biden administration, but it still faces serious obstacles from skeptics in both parties.
“Our group — comprised of 10 Senators, 5 from each party — has worked in good faith and reached a bipartisan agreement on a realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies. This investment would be fully paid for and not include tax increases,” the senators said in a joint statement.
The initial reception from the White House was positive.
Senior White House staff and President Joe Biden’s jobs cabinet will work with the bipartisan Senate group behind a new infrastructure proposal, according to White House spokesman Andrew Bates. However, he cautioned that “questions need to be addressed, particularly around the details of both policy and pay-fors, among other matters.”
Here’s what we know so far:
Who’s in the group?
Thursday’s announcement came from a group of 10 senators who have become the primary negotiators after talks between Capito and Biden fell through. That includes:
What’s in the deal?
While the group didn’t publicly reveal specifics of the agreement, several sources tell CNN they crafted a package that includes:
- $1.2 trillion of spending over eight years
- $974 billion spent over the first five years
- The plan calls for $579 billion dollars of new spending.
- The spending will be focused on core, physical infrastructure.
- The plan will be paid for without tax hikes.
- Many of the specific details still need to be ironed out.
While this deal is an important first step, the negotiations still have a long way to go before becoming reality. Liberal Democrats in the Senate in particular have spent recent days urging their more centrist colleagues to move on from trying to win Republican support, and instead push for a partisan plan that can pass through reconciliation.
Reconciliation only requires 50 senators to advance the plan, unlike most other legislation, which needs 60 votes. While the bipartisan group of negotiators contains five Republicans, that’s still five GOP votes short — and that’s if all 50 members of the Democratic caucus vote. Liberal members of the Senate complained about the bipartisan group’s negotiations this week urging Democrats to go at it alone.
“Let’s face it. It’s time to move forward,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, told CNN regarding the bipartisan group’s negotiations. “The Republicans have held us up long enough.”
And that’s to say nothing of the House, where Democrats also hold a very narrow majority.
White House reaction
The new money in the agreement could represent slightly more than half of Biden’s initial physical infrastructure proposal and a senior administration official told CNN that makes it worth exploring. The lack of tax increases doesn’t make it a nonstarter, the official added, saying that potentially acceptable pay-fors that the White House still considers in play are “user fees” on corporations, not individuals, and tougher IRS enforcement.
The efforts of the group, made up of moderate members of both parties, took on new importance after Biden broke off talks with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, a Republican who had been empowered by GOP leadership to negotiate with the White House on behalf of the conference. The senators had been negotiating behind closed doors for several weeks before announcing they had come to an agreement.
Getting White House buy-in will be important. While many Democrats expressed concerns that their party’s negotiators were giving up too much in the talks, if the President endorses the plan it could force many to fall in line. But navigating razor thin margins in both the Senate and House could prove dicey. Progressives in both chambers are insistent tax hikes on wealthy corporations and spending on climate change initiatives be included in the final package. If they walk away from the deal, it will require more Republicans to vote for the package.
“Earlier today, White House staff were briefed by Democratic Senators working on the bipartisan agreement on infrastructure,” White House spokesman Bates said in his statement. “The President appreciates the Senators’ work to advance critical investments we need to create good jobs, prepare for our clean energy future, and compete in the global economy.”
Expect this group to continue to hammer out the details in the coming days, particularly while Biden is on his overseas trip. White House contributions are primarily expected to be from aides who are not traveling with Biden, such as White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and director of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell.
Lawmakers have eyed the July 4 holiday as a key time period for making progress on a deal, but an exact deadline has not been specified as Hill and White House negotiators wanted to allow enough time for a deal to emerge.The bipartisan deal makers acknowledged they had work to do, but vowed to work to convince their colleagues this proposal offers their best hope of getting something done.
“We are discussing our approach with our respective colleagues, and the White House, and remain optimistic that this can lay the groundwork to garner broad support from both parties and meet America’s infrastructure needs,” the group said.