Biden, Sinema Meet on Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal
President Biden met with Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the leading Democratic negotiator on a bipartisan infrastructure deal on Tuesday, as talks between a group of senators and White House officials continue to hinge on a handful of unresolved disagreements over funding levels and how to fund a deal.
The meeting, first reported by Politico and confirmed by two people familiar with the plans, is expected to focus on the ongoing talks. Other senators involved in the talks expressed varying degrees of optimism, but most said negotiations are expected to continue deeper into the week.
“If it takes a few more days, fine,” said Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware, who is fighting for more funding for drinking water infrastructure. “At the end of the day, I think it’s just extremely important to meet our priorities.
The White House meeting comes more than a month after Mr Biden, Ms Sinema and nine other senators triumphantly announced an agreement on a $ 1.2 trillion spending framework, including nearly $ 600 billion in new financing for roads, bridges, highways and broadband.
Time is running out for negotiators before a scheduled break in August. Democratic leaders are determined to vote ahead of the break not only on the bipartisan infrastructure deal, but also on a $ 3.5 trillion budget plan that will unlock the party’s ability to use the fast-track reconciliation process and push forward the rest of Mr. Biden’s economic program. .
Leading Senate Republicans, speaking at their weekly press conference on Tuesday, said they discussed the infrastructure negotiations at a party lunch. But they have directed most of their public commentary towards the plans for the $ 3.5 trillion plan, ridiculing it as a reckless spending spree that would fuel concerns about inflation.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine, made it clear that the parties are still fighting over funding for transit. “There are still other general issues,” she added, “and there are minor issues throughout.”
It is not at all clear what impact a collapse of bipartisan talks on the larger package would have. West Virginia Democrat and negotiator Senator Joe Manchin III told reporters on Tuesday: “If the bipartisan deal collapses, then I think it all collapses.
He and Ms. Sinema, both key moderates, have yet to publicly commit to pushing forward a reconciliation plan while negotiating the bipartisan agreement.
But most negotiators took a much more optimistic tone. Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy said a deal was “absolutely” within reach.
Negotiators are still negotiating a number of unresolved issues, including how much money to put into transit programs. But after a series of finger-pointing between the two sides on Monday after Republicans rejected the Democrats’ latest offer, officials from both parties appeared more optimistic about the possibility of a deal.
Majority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York continued on Tuesday to warn that lawmakers should work all weekend to finalize the deal. Lawmakers have said they will likely try to include new funding for infrastructure projects in the budget plan if bipartisan talks collapse.
“We are not there yet, but we are in the process of doing the process,” Schumer said at his weekly press conference. “The number of problems has been drastically reduced. “
Pressed repeatedly on the timeline for a final deal, he reiterated he was optimistic about the chances of a deal and had not committed to a firm deadline for the end of negotiations.
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