Senators from Both Parties Claim They have Reached an Agreement on Infrastructure
The five Democrats and the five Republicans have reached a tentative agreement on the pay-fors and financing of the infrastructure, but it is only a tentative agreement.
Just days After President Biden halted discussions, Republican senators who are negotiating as part of a bipartisan group of ten senators claim they have struck a tentative agreement on the amount of an infrastructure package and how the package would be funded.
The pressure was on to come to some form of agreement as President Biden's administration said it was open to a plan by Senate Democrats to pass specific components of the infrastructure bill without Republican backing. Biden's infrastructure plan would most likely use the budget reconciliation process, which was used earlier this year to pass the American Rescue Plan with only 50 votes from Democratic members of Congress.
President Biden has advocated for the evolving agreement to spend just a fraction of the $4.1 trillion in investment. It would not raise taxes, making it difficult to sell to the entire Senate Democratic caucus in the coming months.
Members of the bipartisan group stressed on Thursday that the tentative agreement still has to be presented to the Senate Republican party and the White House to see whether there is broader support for it.
We are now in the middle of the process since it has not yet been presented to our separate caucuses or the White House.
"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 Romney (R-Utah), a member of the group.
As one of the group's members, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), stated, "We are not after the process, nor are we at the beginning, but we are in the middle."
Romney also stated that a tentative agreement on the total top-line expenditure figure had been reached as well.
In his words, "I believe it's complete, but others may have a different point of view."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a part of the group, acknowledged that a tentative agreement had been reached and described it as a "major" sign of progress.
"There is tentative agreement on a framework among the 10 of us, but there is still a long way to go," says the group.
"Among the ten of us, there is a tentative agreement on a framework, but obviously, there's a long way 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 stated.
Early on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated that Republicans "haven't given up hope" in the possibility of a bipartisan infrastructure agreement with the Biden administration.
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, "We haven't given up hope of achieving an infrastructure agreement... I believe there is a fair possibility we will be able to get an understanding. "He went on to say more.
"Yeah, I think it's clearly possible. We haven't given up on reaching an infrastructure agreement. ... I think there's a good chance we can get there."
Other members of the bipartisan group were hesitant to declare agreement on the total expenditure figure until they had a chance to consult with a larger number of their fellow members.
"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," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) one of the Republican negotiators in the bipartisan group who was participating in the negotiations.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) said she was aware that members of the bipartisan group were very close to reaching an agreement on the broad outlines of a scaled-down infrastructure spending package. According to the Associated Press, she predicted that it would be similar to what she had offered to President Joe Biden in recent weeks.
"They were pretty close, I think, the last time I talked to them," she added of her friends and family.
"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 continued.
A key difference between what Senate Republicans outlined last month and the group of ten Democrats and Republicans is putting together is that the new package would include President Joe Biden's energy provisions. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), one of the Republican negotiators in the bipartisan group, said the new package would include energy provisions that Biden wants.
According to Cassidy, "This will go back through committees, it will go through Finance Committee for the pay-fors, we still have to communicate with the president, but as far as the group is concerned, we have a definitive offer."
According to the Louisiana Republican, the next stage is to sell the bipartisan agreement to the White House and the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the Senate.
"We'd have to get our colleagues, regardless of which party they're in, on board with it," he added, adding that the group would have to "make sure the White House is on board with it" as well.
Cassidy stated that the Senate group's top-line expenditure figure is comparable to the $1.25 trillion infrastructure investment blueprint announced earlier this week by the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus.
The approach proposed by that group would generate $762 billion in increased expenditures over eight years.
As for the top line, he added, "The Problem Solvers passed something quite close to ours in terms of the top line, with the same categories, and basically the same everything else."
"Everything is positive."
When asked why Biden would accept the agreement after rejecting Capito's plan, which was not significantly different, Cassidy referred to a new energy portion in the agreement.
"We have an energy part in ours that the president expressed a strong desire for during my chat with him," he explained.
GOP senator says bipartisan infrastructure talks' very productive.'