By David Morgan and Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of 10 senators is trying to craft a plan to revitalize America’s highways and bridges without tax increases, lawmakers said Wednesday, though some of President Joe Biden’s Democrats were concerned that such focus on infrastructure legislation would fail. .
Renewing America’s infrastructure is a high priority for Biden, but his expansive $ 1.7 trillion proposal has run into trouble in a Congress that his party controls in a limited way, making Republican support critical.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney told reporters that group members had reached “tentative conclusions” about their plan, but did not provide details. The proposal is expected to total nearly $ 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, Sen. 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.”
The bipartisan group also includes Republicans Rob Portman, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, and Democrats Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Mark Warner, and Jeanne Shaheen.
Some Liberal Democrats have been frustrated https://www.reuters.com/world/us/liberal-democrats-restless-over-bidens-infrastructure-talks-with-republicans-2021-06-04 by long talks, and I he’s worried this will lead to a smaller deal that doesn’t include party priorities, including funding for schools and home health care.
‘MINIMALIST THAT MEANS NOTHING’
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown was pessimistic about the chances of bipartisan success, saying that a tax-free infrastructure plan for corporations and the wealthy to help pay for it would have little credibility with fellow Democrats.
“There are not 10 Republicans who are willing to talk to us about the compromise,” Brown said. “And if they get exactly 10 Republicans, you would probably lose a few Democrats if it’s too overwhelming, intermediate, minimalist.”
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 Senate is split 50-50, with Democrats in control because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tiebreaker vote. Sixty votes are needed in the 100-seat chamber to advance most of the legislation.
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.
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 for individuals 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 look at some COVID funds that are being returned,” Portman said, adding that lawmakers have also considered an infrastructure bank to fund projects.
Biden broke off talks Tuesday with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who had led a six-member Republican team that included party leaders and high-ranking 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 potentially softens the line for the White House,” Cassidy said in an online forum. “You can let the Republicans be a little more generous.”
Separately, a bipartisan group of 58 House legislators led by Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Brian Fitzpatrick, known as the Problem Solvers Caucus, launched a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure framework. The caucus has been working with the bipartisan group of senators, said a source familiar with the negotiations. The proposal does not include details on how it will be paid.