Senate Group, White House Wrangle Over Paying for Infrastructure

The bipartisan Senate group attempting to draw up a compromise infrastructure plan remained at odds with the Biden administration over how to pay for a $579 billion package, as the White House begins plotting out with Democratic leaders a strategy for the path ahead.

“Probably not today but I think we’ll get there,” Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the lead GOP negotiator said Wednesday in between meetings with White House officials at the Capitol.

Proposals to index the gasoline tax to inflation and slap a user fee on electric vehicle owners have been dropped from the discussions, according to senators involved. Portman said the negotiators have now increased the amount of revenue from stepped up tax enforcement. But Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said there’s no agreement yet on how much money can be raised that way.

President Joe Biden declined to give an assessment when asked Wednesday about the proposal from the bipartisan group.

“I’ll tell you that when I get the final numbers tonight,” he said.

The group proposed $40 billion in Internal Revenue Service funding to yield $103 billion. The White House has claimed that an $80 billion investment and changes to IRS bank data access could yield $700 billion.

Those talks were leading up to a separate meeting of White House officials with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the strategy for getting a bipartisan infrastructure package through Congress along with a more comprehensive bill with the rest of Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda.

The Democratic leaders have been laying the groundwork for acting on a bill dealing with physical infrastructure with Republican support, with the rest of the president’s agenda following a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation that can get through the Senate with only Democratic votes.

The discussion between Pelosi and Schumer and the White House representatives will be “in part about the budget reconciliation process, the second track. And that track will include the American Families Plan and components that are not a part of the negotiations” on infrastructure, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

The Senate is scheduled to out of session after Thursday, with senators leaving Washington until mid-July. That has given greater urgency to the talks, though negotiations can continue while the Senate is in recess.

“I know there is a lot of hope and aspiration about that coming together before the end of the week and having something that they can announce, but I don’t know if they are quite there yet,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, who is not part of the bipartisan negotiating group. “These are thorny complicated issues.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.