Biden, Senators Get $579 Billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden celebrated his tentative deal with a group of Democratic and Republican senators on a $579 billion infrastructure plan, saying it would create millions of jobs while fulfilling a major piece of his economic agenda.
The group of senators, who had been negotiating among themselves and with the White House for weeks, “has come together to forge an agreement that will create millions of American jobs and modernize our American infrastructure,” Biden said at the White House.
He called the investments “long overdue” and said that “this agreement signals to the world that we can function, deliver and do significant things.” He also said it was a “huge day for half of my economic agenda.”
The bipartisan legislation is expected to move through Congress alongside a separate Democrats-only bill that would spend trillions more on what Biden called “human infrastructure” that the GOP opposes. It’s not yet assured that either measure will muster enough support to clear the House and Senate, given the split between the two political parties and differences between progressive and moderate Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier that her chamber wouldn’t consider the bipartisan deal without the broader package of legislation, which Democrats will attempt to pass using the so-called budget reconciliation procedure that avoids a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Biden said he would only sign the bipartisan deal if it comes to his desk together with the reconciliation bill.
That drew an outraged reaction from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, who accused Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of holding the bipartisan plan “hostage” to their plans for a more massive bill. He said that Biden by agreeing to the strategy was caving to the Democratic Party’s left wing.
“That’s not the way to show you’re serious about getting a bipartisan outcome,” McConnell said. “I hope our colleagues can recover and get their good-faith efforts back on track.”
The 10-member group of senators -- five Republicans and five Democrats -- hammered out the final agreement in the last several days, with top White House aides including Biden counselor Steve Ricchetti and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese shuttling to Capitol Hill to participate in the talks.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted. But we came up with a good compromise,” Republican Senator Rob Portman said after meeting with Biden.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat who led the group of senators with Portman, said that “we all gave some to get some.”
Shares of companies that would benefit from infrastructure spending rose on news of the deal. Construction-equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. led a rally for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Vulcan Materials Co. and Martin Marietta Materials Inc. were among the top gainers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
The White House said the legislation would finance a range of programs, including the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history, repairs to roads and bridges, a network of 500,000 chargers for electric vehicles, the elimination of lead service lines in the nation’s water systems, expansions of broadband internet service, cleaning up pollution and new, “resilient” power lines.
The cost of the expenditures would be offset by a variety of revenue-raising provisions, including stronger enforcement of tax collections from the wealthy, sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, unspecified “public-private partnerships” and assumptions that the infrastructure investments would lead to greater economic growth.
“The president came into office promising to find common ground to get things done – and he’s delivering on that promise,” the White House said in a statement.
The agreement marks a significant step forward in the effort to put together a package of infrastructure spending that can draw enough votes from both parties to get through Congress. But in addition to receiving Biden’s backing, the senators now must get congressional leaders of both parties on board to assure support in the evenly divided Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to get the legislation passed under regular order.
Before going to the White House, Portman met Thursday with Senate GOP leader McConnell to brief him on the proposal and lobby for his support. “He hasn’t made his decision,” Portman said afterward.
Success also will hinge on whether Biden can assure progressive Democrats in the House and Senate that their priorities are met in a separate, more expansive package that would use the fast-track reconciliation procedure to clear the Senate without needing GOP votes. The White House argues that a bipartisan plan unlocks moderate Democratic support for more social spending in a later bill.
Pelosi and Schumer said they’ve agreed on a strategy to twin a bipartisan infrastructure package and a budget resolution setting up fast-track legislation with the rest of Biden’s $4 trillion economic plan. Votes could come in July.
But Pelosi suggested the House will hold back until the broader reconciliation package is cleared through the Senate. That likely would push final passage of both past July, into a curtailed August recess or beyond.
“Let me be really clear on this: we will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said Thursday at a news conference.
Pelosi can afford to lose no more than four Democratic votes, and progressives are wary of moving ahead on an infrastructure bill without a guarantee that the larger package will get voted on.
“We don’t have a lot of faith in, ‘I promise I’ll do this,’” Representative Pramila Jayapal, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Wednesday.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said the infrastructure proposal is too narrow.
“We cannot throw priorities like climate, prescription drugs and tax fairness overboard,” he said, adding that passage of the infrastructure legislation has to be “directly connected” to a bigger reconciliation bill that addresses those issues.
One of the key moderate Democrats and a member of the bipartisan group that worked on the infrastructure plan, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, urged progressives to support the deal.
“I would say please don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he told reporters Thursday.
However, he said he won’t support a reconciliation package until he sees the details. Manchin called a $6 trillion plan floated by Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders as too expensive.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said of Manchin, “if he wants to get on this bipartisan bill he’s going to have to give a little on the reconciliation bill.”
Sanders said he recognized that the reconciliation bill will need the support of the entire Democratic caucus to get through and the topline would have to be negotiated.
“I think $6 trillion is the appropriate amount of money to address the crises facing this country,” he said. “Obviously I have to work with 49 other senators to come up with a bill.”
Republicans have largely accepted that Democrats would move ahead on their own with a much larger bill later.
“The main question among the rest of us Republicans would be is how big is the secondary package going to be and how you’re going to pay for that,” Indiana GOP Senator Mike Braun said on Bloomberg Television.
The Senate is set to begin a more than two-week recess that begins later in the day, and the lawmakers involved in shaping the framework will used that time to build support for it. They represent 10 votes in the Senate and will need at least five more Republicans along with all Democrats and two independents to get it through the chamber.
“I don’t know how far it’s going to get,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said. “I think it’s going all the way.”
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The House will vote on parts of an infrastructure package next week, and lawmakers have talked of going into House-Senate conference talks to forge a final bill if the Senate passes the emerging bipartisan deal.
It’s not yet clear if Democrats will try to use either the infrastructure bill or subsequent reconciliation bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The debt ceiling comes back into effect on Aug. 1, but the Treasury can likely delay a payments default into the autumn.
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