WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of 10 senators is discussing whether it is possible to revitalize America’s highways and bridges without raising taxes, lawmakers said Wednesday, a day after President Joe Biden rejected a separate Republican proposal.
Renewing America’s infrastructure is a high priority for Biden, but his broad $ 1.7 trillion proposal has run into trouble in a Congress controlled limited by his fellow Democrats, making Republican support critical. .
Republican Senator Mitt Romney told reporters that members of the group have reached “tentative conclusions” about their plan. It is expected to total almost $ 900 billion.
“We are not raising taxes,” Romney told reporters. “We are going to talk to other members to see if we can get enough support for this to get the votes it needs to be successful.”
A Democratic member of the group, Senator Jon Tester said he would be willing to consider funding an infrastructure plan without raising taxes, although he was not committed to that approach.
“I’d consider it for sure,” Tester said. “I think there are loads of money out there, hopefully not all of them are smoke and mirrors.”
Some liberal members of Biden’s Democratic Party, which has a minimal majority in both houses of Congress, have been frustrated by the long-running talks and worried that they will lead to a much smaller deal that does not include the party’s priorities, including funding for schools. and home health care.
The bipartisan group includes Republicans Romney, Rob Portman, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, and Democrats Tester, Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Mark Warner and Jeanne Shaheen.
“Taxes would be a big mistake and I think the Biden administration understands that,” Portman said.
Cassidy, who spoke to Biden about infrastructure by phone on Tuesday, predicted that any plan containing tax increases would not receive enough Republican support to pass the Senate. The rules of that chamber require that 60 of its 100 members agree to pass most of the laws.
Biden has proposed raising taxes on US corporations to help fund a comprehensive package that would address physical infrastructure projects, as well as social and climate change programs. Republicans have shown no interest in tax increases, having strongly backed a 2017 tax cuts law signed by former President Donald Trump.
Romney and Portman said group members have not set a full amount of infrastructure spending and declined to discuss specific provisions that would follow.
Portman said the group is seeking funding mechanisms for its proposal that could meet Democratic resistance, including unspecified user fees and tapping funds for unemployment payments related to the COVID-19 pandemic to people that some states have returned to the Treasury. from the USA
“I think the White House is interested in talking to us about appropriate ways to consider some COVID funds that are being returned,” Portman said, adding that lawmakers have also considered an infrastructure bank to fund projects.
The Senate is split 50-50, with Democrats in control because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tiebreaker vote.
Biden broke off talks Tuesday with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who had led a six-member Republican team that included party leaders and top members of relevant Senate committees.
Capito had offered Biden $ 330 billion in new infrastructure spending, well below what he was looking for.
Cassidy said the bipartisan nature of her group could make a difference. “That softens the line on the White House, potentially,” the Louisiana Republican said in an online forum. “You can let the Republicans be a little more generous.”
The 10 senators now working on a new plan are part of a larger 20-member bipartisan group known as the G-20, which includes Capito. Portman said he would continue to work closely with Capito and his team.
(Information from David Morgan; additional information from Susan Cornwell; edited by Scott Malone, Chizu Nomiyama, and Andrea Ricci)