A bipartisan group of senators is discussing a new proposal for an infrastructure investment plan envisioning an additional $ 579 billion as senators try to reach a deal worth more than $ 1 trillion against President Biden’s much-costly proposal high.
The 10 senators held closed-door meetings after President Biden called on them to continue efforts on a new proposal. The president has rejected the only offer made by Republicans.
“Our group of 10 senators – five from each party – has worked with sincere confidence and we have reached a bipartisan agreement on a realistic framework, a compromise to modernize the country’s infrastructure and energy technology,” the senators said in a joint statement.
“Investments will be fully affordable for the budget, without the need for tax increases,” they said. “We are discussing the views of each of the colleagues and the White House proposal and we are confident that we will receive support from both parties to meet the country’s infrastructure needs.”
The White House said Democratic senators briefed the White House on the plan they are drafting, adding that there are still uncertainties that have not received a response.
“The president appreciates the senators’ effort to get the approval of the critical investments that are necessary to create jobs, clean energy for the future, and compete in the global economy,” said a White House spokesman. added that there are still questions that need to be answered both about the proposals and the ways to cover the costs of these investments.
The president and Congress are trying to reach an agreement on infrastructure investment projects, including road, bridge repairs, and other projects. The senators say their proposal offers hope for approval of the plan in a Congress deeply divided along party lines.
The cost of their proposal is $ 974 billion over a five-year period and $ 1.2 trillion over an eight-year period, as required by President Biden. The $ 1.2 trillion figure represents a $ 330 billion increase over the previous Republican nomination of $ 928 billion, but still does not come close to the $ 1.7 trillion spending that President Biden has requested.
One of the points that causes the most friction is how the cost of these investments will be paid.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, one of the main negotiators, did not talk about costs, saying they had discussed the new spending target with the president.
Another member of the group, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, said they were “quite close” to the target amount in their discussions, but were still debating ways to pay that amount. One of the proposals is to use American tax arrears, he said.
“However, we need to talk,” said Senator Tester.
A Republican who was not part of the group, Sen. Mike Brown of Indiana, said he was told the package would provide nearly $ 1 trillion, including $ 579 billion in new spending on the initial basis for transportation projects.
Senator Brown also said some parts of the plan would be paid for with unused funds in the stimulus package for the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been opposed by the White House.
“I think they came up with a proposal similar to that of Senator Capito, but with a little more money,” he said.
President Biden urged senators to continue working as he embarked on his first trip abroad after talks with Ms. Capito and other Republican senators failed this week.
The president is seeking a comprehensive investment not only in roads, highways and bridges, but also in the cable internet network, charging stations for electric cars and other aspects of what he sees as part of the new, paid-for economy. increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.
Republicans prefer a more focused plan to repair existing transportation systems, with more modest investment in other areas. They oppose any tax increase to pay for new expenses.
With the Senate split, 50-50, and most legislation requiring 60-vote approval to avoid the possibility of blocking through the tactic of endless speeches, President Biden is seeking a bipartisan agreement to secure the passage of an infrastructure bill. At the same time, he has instructed Democrats who control the House of Representatives and the Senate to prepare for the approval of parts of the package separately, according to special budget rules that enable approval by 51 votes in the Senate.
In the equally divided Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris’s vote is decisive.
Meanwhile, a House committee advanced a bill early Thursday that serves as an important basis in efforts to pass an infrastructure proposal. The bill aims to increase federal spending on roads, bridges and railroads. The $ 547 billion package was approved largely on party lines with a 38-26 vote and is likely to be considered by the House of Representatives later this month.