President Joe Biden said he’s reached a tentative deal with a group of Democratic and Republican senators on a bipartisan, $579 billion five-year infrastructure plan that would fulfill one of his top priorities.
“We have a deal,” Biden told reporters after the senators presented their agreement to him at the White House. He said the bill would move alongside separate legislation that would spend trillions more on what he called “human infrastructure” that the GOP opposes.
“There is going to be a two-track system,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier that her chamber wouldn’t consider the bipartisan deal without the broader package of legislation, which Democrats will attempt to pass using the so-called budget reconciliation procedure that avoids a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
The 10-member group — five Republicans and five Democrats — hammered out the framework following days of negotiations with key administration aides.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted. But we came up with a good compromise,” Republican Senator Rob Portman said after meeting with Biden.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat who led the group of senators with Portman, said that “we all gave some to get some.”
Shares of companies that would benefit from infrastructure spending rose on news of the deal. Construction-equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. led a rally for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Vulcan Materials Co. and Martin Marietta Materials were among the top gainers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
The agreement marks a significant step forward in the effort to put together a package of infrastructure spending that can draw enough votes from both parties to get through Congress. But in addition to receiving Biden’s backing, the senators now must get congressional leaders of both parties on board to assure support in the evenly divided Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to get the legislation passed under regular order.
Before going to the White House, Portman met Thursday with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell to brief him on the proposal and lobby for his support. “He hasn’t made his decision,” Portman said afterward.
Success also will hinge on whether Biden can assure progressive Democrats in the House and Senate that their priorities are met in a separate, more expansive package that would use the fast-track procedure known as reconciliation to clear the Senate without needing GOP votes. The White House argues that a bipartisan plan unlocks moderate Democratic support for more social spending in a later bill.
Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they’ve agreed on a strategy to twin a bipartisan infrastructure package and a budget resolution setting up fast-track legislation with the rest of Biden’s $4 trillion economic plan. Votes could come in July.
But Pelosi suggested the House will hold back until the broader reconciliation package is cleared through the Senate. That likely would push final passage of both past July, into a curtailed August recess or beyond.
“Let me be really clear on this: we will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said Thursday at a news conference.
Pelosi can afford to lose no more than four Democratic votes, and progressives are wary of moving ahead on an infrastructure bill without a guarantee that the larger package will get voted on.
“We don’t have a lot of faith in, ‘I promise I’ll do this,’” Representative Pramila Jayapal, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Wednesday.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said the infrastructure proposal is too narrow.
“We cannot throw priorities like climate, prescription drugs and tax fairness overboard,” he said, adding that passage of the infrastructure legislation has to be “directly connected” to a bigger reconciliation bill that addresses those issues.
One of the key moderate Democrats and a member of the bipartisan group that worked on the infrastructure plan, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, urged progressives to support the deal.
“I would say please don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he told reporters Thursday.
However, he said he won’t support a reconciliation package until he sees the details. Manchin called a $6 trillion plan floated by Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders as too expensive.
The Senate is set to begin a more than two-week recess that begins later in the day, and the lawmakers involved in shaping the framework will used that time to build support for it. They represent 10 votes in the Senate and will need at least five more Republicans along with all Democrats and two independents to get it through the chamber.
“I don’t know how far it’s going to get,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said. “I think it’s going all the way.”
Previous attempts to negotiate an agreement with Republicans led by West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito collapsed after Biden rejected their proposal as inadequate. The bipartisan group, a core of five Democratic and five GOP senators, then began working on their own approach.
The House will vote on parts of an infrastructure package next week, and lawmakers have talked of going into House-Senate conference talks to forge a final bill if the Senate passes the emerging bipartisan deal.
It’s not yet clear if Democrats will try to use either the infrastructure bill or subsequent reconciliation bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The debt ceiling comes back into effect on Aug. 1, but the Treasury can likely delay a payments default into the autumn.
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