Lawmakers Race to Finalize Infrastructure Negotiations
Lawmakers struggle to finalize details of a bipartisan infrastructure deal that would strengthen the country’s aging public works system, disagreeing on how much to increase public transport funding even as they pledge to produce a final text this week.
After Republicans unanimously blocked the Senate from adopting the emerging plan last week, a select group of 10 Republican and Democratic senators worked throughout the weekend to iron out remaining issues. The framework, announced by negotiators and President Biden last month, is expected to provide $ 1.2 trillion over eight years, including nearly $ 600 billion in new federal funds.
But the two sides have yet to agree on how much money to pour into existing transportation programs, as Democrats have called for more funding for public transportation, aides and lawmakers said on Sunday. A Democratic aide familiar with the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity, said other issues under discussion included funding for water infrastructure, highways, bridges and broadband, as well as the use of waterways. unspent coronavirus relief funds to fund the package.
“We’re about 90 percent of the way. I feel good to have done this this week, ”said Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio and chief negotiator, on ABC’s“ This Week ”. He added that public transportation remains an unresolved issue. “We’re not getting a lot of answers from Democrats on this,” he said.
Democratic negotiators and White House officials sent an offer to Republicans on Sunday evening with proposals to clarify outstanding issues, according to a Democrat familiar with the negotiations, who disclosed on condition of anonymity. It was not known if and when the Republicans would react.
Much of the package is expected to include bipartisan measures to maintain existing transport and infrastructure programs, but key lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee have yet to agree on the part regarding public transport. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, chair of the committee, said last week that “there have never been really serious offers” on funding levels.
“There are people who think it’s Monopoly money, but it’s not,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, the committee’s top Republican, said on “State of the Union ”from CNN. “I think the way we should pay for this increase in infrastructure spending is to reallocate the money that we have already approved, but which has not yet been spent.”
Still, Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia and another key negotiator, promised on Sunday that the text of the bill would be completed on Monday.
“You’re going to see an invoice Monday afternoon,” he told “Fox News Sunday”. “We will have this text.”
Mr Warner also urged Republicans to join him in supporting a much more ambitious $ 3.5 trillion partisan budget proposal that would include funding for a universal kindergarten, a free community college, and student loans. tax for childcare. But Democrats plan to pass this larger spending plan in a party line vote using a maneuver known as budget reconciliation, which allows them to bypass the obstruction threshold of 60 votes.
Republicans have uniformly criticized this package, which should carry the rest of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda, as too expensive and broad. They also denounced President Nancy Pelosi of California for vowing to wait to hold a vote on the bipartisan package until the Senate approves the larger spending plan.
“The bill is not as green as I would like it to be,” Pelosi said of the bipartisan infrastructure package, urging more programs to be included to tackle climate change. “Still, I hope it passes. I won’t knock him down until we have the rest of the initiative.
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