Near. Biden and bipartisan senators have infrastructure deal

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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a hard-won bipartisan deal on a scaled-down infrastructure plan that would kick start his legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach the political aisle. He openly acknowledged that Democrats will likely have to tackle much of the rest on their own.

The bill’s price at $ 973 billion over five years, or $ 1.2 trillion over eight years, is a small but still important part of Biden’s broader proposals.

It includes more than half a trillion dollars in new spending and could open the door to the president’s more radical $ 4 trillion proposals later.

“When we can find common ground, work across party lines, that’s what I’ll be looking to do,” said Biden, who considered the agreement “a real bipartisan effort, breaking the ice which has too often kept us frozen in place “.

The president stressed that “neither side got everything they wanted in this deal; that’s what a compromise means,” and said other White House priorities would be addressed separately in as part of a congressional budget process known as reconciliation.

He clarified that the two elements would be done “in tandem” and that he would not sign the bipartisan agreement without the other, bigger one. Progressive members of Congress have said they will maintain the same approach.

“It reminds me of the days when we used to do a lot of things in the United States Congress,” said Biden, a former senator from Delaware, putting his hand on the shoulder of a Republican senator at the look stoic. Rob Portman as the President made a surprise appearance with a bipartisan group of Senators to announce the deal outside the White House.

The deal came after months of partisan resentment that consumed Washington as Biden insisted something could be done despite the skepticism of many in his own party. Led by Republican Portman of Ohio and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the group included some of the Senate’s most independent lawmakers, some known to oppose their parties.

“You know, there are a lot of people who say two-party politics is dead in Washington,” Sinema said, “We can use two-party politics to solve these challenges.”

And Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, “It also sends an important message to the world that America can work, get things done.”

The proposal includes both new and existing spending and highlights the struggle lawmakers have faced to find ways to pay for them.

Investments include $ 109 billion for roads and highways, $ 15 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure and mass transit systems, and $ 65 billion for broadband, among other spending on airports, systems drinking water and resilience efforts to fight climate change.

Rather than Biden’s proposed corporate tax hike that Republicans oppose or the gasoline tax increase the president has rejected, the funds will come from a variety of sources – without a full tally yet. , according to the White House document.

The money will come from COVID-19 relief funds approved in 2020 but not yet spent, as well as untapped unemployment insurance funds that Democrats have been reluctant to poach. Further revenue is expected by going further after tax evasion by strengthening the enforcement of the Internal Revenue Service.

The rest is a mishmash of asset selling and accounting tools, including funds from rental sales of 5G telecommunications spectrum, a strategic reserve of oil, and an expectation that the large-scale investment will generate. economic growth – what the White House calls “the macroeconomic impact of infrastructure investments.”

Senators from both parties stressed that the deal will create jobs for the economy, a belief that clearly transcends partisan interests and creates a framework for the deal.

“We will continue to work together – we are not finished,” Senator Mitt Romney said. “But America works, the Senate works.”

For Biden, the deal was a welcome outcome.

Although for far less than the roughly $ 2 trillion he was originally looking for, which sparks some anger on the left, Biden had bet his political capital that he could work with Republicans and show that “that American democracy can offer “and be a counterexample to rising autocracies around the world.

Additionally, Biden and his aides believed they needed a bipartisan infrastructure deal to create a licensing structure for more moderate Democrats – including West Virginia’s Sinema and Joe Manchin – to then be ready to go. vote for the rest of the party line. the president’s agenda.

There is still some skepticism on the left. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the bipartisan deal is “far too small – paltry, pathetic. I need clear, foolproof assurance that there will be a truly adequate solid package” that will follow. bipartite agreement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, like Biden, warned he had to be associated with the president’s more ambitious goals currently being prepared by Congress in a process that could get them through the Senate with Democratic votes only .

“There will be no bipartisan bill without a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said.

Portman had met privately prior to the White House meeting with Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill and subsequently said the Kentucky senator “remains open-minded and always listens.”

The announcement leaves uncertain the fate of Biden’s massive investment pledges to slow climate change, which Biden this spring called “the existential crisis of our time.”

Biden’s presidential campaign had helped gain progressive support with promises of significant spending on electric vehicles, charging stations, as well as research and funding for overhauling the U.S. economy to run on less oil. , gas and coal. The administration is expected to push for some of this in future legislation.

But Senator Cassidy, R-La, pointed out that there were billions of dollars for resilience against extreme weather and the impacts of climate change and said Thursday’s deal was a “start-up investment.” .

Biden called for $ 1.7 trillion in his U.S. Jobs Plan, part of nearly $ 4 trillion in general infrastructure spending for roads, bridges and broadband internet, but also the so called economy of care of daycares, hospitals and care of the elderly.

With Republicans opposed to Biden’s proposed corporate tax rate hike from 21% to 28%, the group looked at other ways to increase its income. Biden rejected their idea of ​​allowing gasoline taxes paid at the pump to rise with inflation, seeing it as a financial burden on American drivers.

The sweeping reconciliation bill would likely include tax increases on the wealthy and business, so tension still exists over funding for some Republicans and business groups. The US Chamber of Commerce on Thursday applauded the bipartisan infrastructure deal, but Neil Bradley, its executive vice president, warned that “some in Congress are trying to torpedo the deal” unless they get billions of dollars in additional expenses.

The Democrats’ biggest proposal would go through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow Biden’s priorities to be passed by majority vote, without needing Republican support to pass the 60-vote Senate threshold. This would require several ballots which should last until the fall.

Associated Press writer Kevin Freking and Darlene Superville contributed reporting.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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