WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators is eyeing an infrastructure deal with $579 billion in new spending as negotiators try to strike a nearly $1 trillion deal on President Joe Biden's top priority, according to those briefed on the plan.
The 10 senators have been huddling behind closed doors, encouraged by Biden to keep working on the effort after he walked away from a Republican-only proposal this week unable to resolve differences. The senators are briefing their colleagues privately and cautioned changes could still be made.
“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," the senators said in a joint statement.
“This investment would be fully paid for and not include tax increases," they added. "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 White House said Democratic senators briefed the administration on the emerging plan but questions remain.
“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,” said deputy press secretary Andrew Bates. “Questions need to be addressed, particularly around the details of both policy and pay-fors, among other matters.”
The president and Congress have been straining to reach an agreement on his ideas for an infrastructure investment, stuck over the scope of the package of road, highway and other projects and how to pay for it. Lawmakers say the group’s tentative agreement represents important progress in fashioning a bill that can pass such an evenly divided Congress this year, but they are also aware that it could easily unravel.
A person familiar with the negotiations but unauthorized to discuss them publicly said the cost would be $974 billion over five years, as is standard for highway spending, or $1.2 trillion if spread over eight as Biden proposes. At that size, the new package would be more than the previous Republican-only effort of $330 billion in new spending in a $928 billion package, but still short of the $1.7 trillion over eight years Biden is seeking.