(AP) — According to those briefed on the plan, a bipartisan group of senators is eyeing an infrastructure deal
with $579 billion in new spending that could be unveiled as early as Thursday as negotiators try to reach a nearly $1 trillion deal on President Joe Biden
's top priority.
The ten 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 due to disagreements. The senators are briefing their colleagues privately and have warned that changes could still be made.
“We got a piece of paper with every line and a total,” Sen. Mitt Romney
, R-Utah, told reporters at the Capitol
, declining to provide further details.
The president and Congress
have been struggling to reach an agreement on the scope of the package of road, highway, and other projects, as well as 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
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 it would still fall short of the $1.7 trillion over eight years sought by Biden.
When asked if the new spending was at $600 billion, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said, “the president said that was his goal, so I don't think anybody felt like they had to exceed his goal.”
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said the group is “fairly close” on a topline amount, but they are still debating how to pay for it, with one option being to include potential revenue from uncollected income taxes.
“We need to talk,” Tester stated.
Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, a Republican who is not a member of the group, said he was told the package would provide nearly $1 trillion, including $579 billion in new transportation spending above the baseline.
Braun also stated that some of it would be paid for with untapped COVID-19
relief funds, which the White House
“They have come up with something similar to what I believe Capito was working on, but my understanding is it will cost a little more money
,” he explained.
After talks with Capito and the GOP
senators broke down this week, Biden tasked the senators to keep working as he embarked on his first overseas trip.
The president wants to invest heavily in not only roads, highways, and bridges, but also broadband, electric vehicle charging stations, and other aspects of what he sees as the new economy
, which would be paid for by raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.
favor a narrower focus on fixing existing transportation systems while making more modest investments elsewhere, and they oppose any tax increases to pay for the new spending.
With the Senate
split 50-50 and most legislation requiring 60 votes
to advance past a filibuster
, Biden is seeking a bipartisan agreement to ensure passage while also instructing Democrats
in control of the House and Senate to prepare to pass portions of the package on their own under special budget rules that allow approval with 51 votes in the Senate.
Vice President Kamala Harris
is a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, which is evenly divided.
Meanwhile, a House panel advanced legislation early Thursday that will serve as a critical building block for that chamber's infrastructure efforts, aiming to increase federal spending on roads, bridges, transit, and rail. The $547 billion package passed mostly along party lines by a vote of 38-26 and will likely be considered by the full House later this month.