Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Senate has reportedly agreed on infrastructure

By Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans on Wednesday reached an agreement with Democrats on major outstanding issues in a $ 1 billion infrastructure bill and said they were ready to vote to pass the bill. An evening test vote was possible.

The leader of the GOP negotiator, Rob Portman of Ohio, made the announcement on the Capitol, flanked by four other Republican senators who were in talks with Democrats and the White House over the dual package.

“We now have an agreement on the key issues,” Portman said. “We are prepared to move forward.”

Sen. Krysten Cinema of Arizona, a senior Democratic negotiator, said she spoke to President Joe Biden on Wednesday and that he was “very excited” to get a deal.

Senators and the White House worked for days to save the dual agreement, an important part of Biden’s agenda.

The result will set the stage for the next debate on Biden’s much more ambitious $ 3.5 billion spending package, a strictly biased pursuit of far-reaching programs and services, including child care, tax cuts and health care that affect almost every corner of American life. , and that Republicans strongly oppose it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer opened the Senate Wednesday, announcing a possible test vote on the dual package that evening. It will require 60 votes in the 50-50 Senate evenly divided to pass, which means support from both parties. It will start a potentially lengthy process to consider the bill and all possible amendments.

Republican senators met Wednesday morning with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who apparently gave his nod to continue. Portman said McConnell “has been encouraging our efforts all along.”

Democrats, who have little control over the House and Senate, are facing a timeline to respond to key legislation in years.

The dual package includes about $ 600 billion in new spending on highways, bridges, transportation, broadband, water systems and other public works.

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Filling in the details has become a month-long exercise since the senators signed an agreement with Biden more than a month ago. There is still work to be done while drafting the legislation.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who was central to talks, said: “It does not mean that every ‘t’, every ‘i’ is crossed, but on the most important issues we are there.”

According to a person who granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting, Republican senators sat down during their closed lunch on Tuesday, arguing to do something that would facilitate the Democrats’ broader bill. Others spoke in favor of the dual package.

A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC found that 8 out of ten Americans have an increase in infrastructure spending.

House Democrats have their own transportation bill, which includes much more spending on rail transportation, electric vehicles and other strategies to counter climate change.

At a private meeting of House Democrats on Tuesday, Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called the Senate bipartisan measure a “shit,” according to two Democrats who attended the session and spoke on condition of anonymity to describe it.

House President Nancy Pelosi did not commit to supporting the dual package before seeing the details, but said on Wednesday that she was ‘rooting for it’.

Pelosi said: “I would very much like it to pass.”

Senators in the two-party group have been sitting privately for weeks. The group contains ten core negotiators, which are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, but have sometimes swelled to 22.

Transit funding has remained a stubborn dispute as Republican senators are careful to formalize what was a typical formula for the Highway Trust Fund, which allocates about 80% for highways and 20% for transportation.

Most Republican senators come from rural states where highways dominate and public transportation is scarce, while Democrats see transit as a priority for cities and a key to easing the congestion and combating climate change. Democrats do not want to see the formula fall below the typical threshold.

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Expanding broadband access. which became more vital for households during the coronavirus pandemic, sparked a new debate. Republicans have pushed back against introducing regulations to Internet service providers in a program that helps low-income people pay for their services.

According to Sinema, transport and broadband are the remaining issues settled on Wednesday.

Democrats have also insisted on a prevailing wage requirement, not only for existing public work programs, but also for the construction of new roads, bridges, broadband and other infrastructure, but it is not clear that this will make the final package.

Still unclear is how to pay for the two-party package after Democrats rejected a plan to raise funds by paying the gas tax executives at the pump and Republicans created a plan to boost the IRS for tax evasion.

Funding could come from the reuse of COVID assistance, to reverse a pharmaceutical rebate and other streams of the Trump era. It is possible that the final agreement could end up in political trouble if it is not paid as well if Congress’s budget office assesses the details.

According to Portman, the package will be ‘more than paid for’.

Meanwhile, Democrats are preparing the broader $ 3.5 billion package being considered under the budget rules passed by 51 senators in the split Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break a tie. That would be paid for by raising the corporate tax rate and the tax rate on Americans earning more than $ 400,000 a year.

Associated Press authors Alan Fram and Josh Boak in Washington and Tali Arbel in New York contributed to this report.


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