After being introduced in early April, President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package is still struggling to achieve bipartisan support in the Senate.
However, a new bipartisan group of senators — 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans — is developing an infrastructure deal that has yet to be released publicly. The deal has a $1 trillion price tag and $579 billion in new spending, according to The Associated Press.
This cuts the president’s original price tag in half from $2 trillion, and his original new spending plan consisted of $600 billion.
The 21 lawmakers who reached the deal behind closed doors announced Thursday that the proposal would be “fully paid for and not include tax increases,” according to a CNBC report. They have yet to announce what will be funding the bill.
More liberal Democrats in the Senate expressed opposition to the bipartisan deal, raising concerns that the negotiators traded policy priorities in order to gain Republican support, the Washington Post reported. A large priority for the Senate Democrats continues to be climate change, and President Biden hopes to prioritize broadband, electric vehicle charging stations and include the corporate tax rate hike, from 21% to 28%, which Republicans staunchly oppose.
Senate Republicans prefer focusing on fixing existing transportation systems, funding road, highway and other project improvements. They oppose any tax hikes to fund the bill, but Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said the package does propose the gas tax be indexed to rise at the rate of inflation. This was met with opposition from the White House, who said the effort was a nonstarter.
The president is seeking a bipartisan agreement to pass the bill, but is simultaneously instructing Democrats in control of the House and Senate to prepare to pass sections of the bill on their own using the budget reconciliation process that only requires 51 votes.
Realistically, the president and Democrats are preparing to go it alone if Republicans attempt to block the investments with the filibuster.
With 21 lawmakers backing the bipartisan proposal, theoretically, the Senate could reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the bill.
“I’m still hoping we can put together the two bookends here,” the president said on Wednesday, according to national media reports.
Preliminary reports detail the $579 billion in new spending in the bipartisan proposal will include: $110 billion on roads and highways, $66 billion on passenger and freight rail and $48 billion on public transit, according to a Republican who requested anonymity to discuss the package, The Associated Press reported.
In addition, compromise was made on another $47 billion to go to resiliency efforts to fight climate change and money for electric vehicle charging stations.
The bipartisan group also wants to tap into $120 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief funds and $315 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program.
However, if Democrats choose to ignore the bipartisan proposal and start a process passing a majority of the package without Republican votes, initial votes could start in July.