The 10 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 without being able to resolve differences. Senators are briefing their colleagues in private and warned that changes could still be made.
“We have a sheet of paper with each line and a total,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters on Capitol Hill. He declined to provide further details. “Can it be adjusted and changed? Sure.”
The president and Congress have struggled to agree on their ideas for an infrastructure investment, stuck on the scope of the package for roads, highways and other projects and how to pay for them.
At that size, the new package spread over five years would be more than the previous Republican-only effort of $ 330 billion in new spending in a $ 928 billion package, but still under $ 1.7. trillion over eight years that Biden is looking for. The group appears to be facing the same problems that Biden and the top Republican negotiator, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, faced in agreeing how to pay it off.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Chief Negotiator, declined to reveal the final tally. When asked if the new spending was $ 600 billion, he said that “the president said that was his goal. So I don’t think anyone felt like he had to exceed his goal.”
Another member of the group, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Said they are “pretty close” on a maximum amount, but are still debating how to pay it. One option is to include potential uncollected income tax revenue, he said.
“We still have to talk,” Tester said.
A Republican not in the group, Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, said he was told the package would provide nearly $ 1 trillion, including $ 579 billion in new above-baseline spending for transportation projects.
Braun also said that some of it would be paid for with untapped Covid-19 relief funds, which has not been a start for the White House.
“They came up with something similar to what I think Capito was working on, but I understand it would be a little more money,” he said.
Biden tasked senators to keep working as he prepared for his first trip abroad after talks collapsed this week with Capito and Republican senators.
The president is seeking a radical investment not only in roads, highways and bridges, but also in broadband, electric vehicle charging stations and other aspects of what he sees as the new economy, all paid for with an increase in the rate of 21% to 28% corporate tax.
Republicans prefer a more limited focus on repairing existing transportation systems, with more modest investments elsewhere. They oppose any tax increase to pay for the new expenses.
With the Senate narrowly split 50-50 and most bills requiring 60 votes to advance beyond filibuster, Biden is seeking a bipartisan deal to secure passage. At the same time, he is also instructing the Democrats who control the House and Senate to prepare to pass parts of the package on their own, under special budget rules that allow passage with 51 votes in the Senate.
In the evenly divided Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the runoff vote.