Senators to Bring Bipartisan Infrastructure Outline to Biden

Senators negotiating a bipartisan infrastructure plan with the White House will meet Thursday with President Joe Biden to present an outline for a roughly $559 billion compromise package of spending on roads, bridges and other projects.

“We have a framework,” Republican Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, one of the 10 senators involved in the negotiations, said Wednesday after another round of talks with Biden’s aides. “We are going to the White House tomorrow.”

The meeting with Biden 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. The Senate group was striving to reach an agreement before the chamber leaves Washington for a two-week break that begins Friday.

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the leaders of the Senate group, said the senators and the administration officials involved in the talks “didn’t agree on everything,” but is enough to begin reaching out to other senators.

Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president and one of the administration officials involved in the talks, declined to comment on the framework as he left the negotiations.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement: “The group made progress towards an outline of a potential agreement, and the president has invited the group to come to the White House tomorrow to discuss this in person.”

The senators didn’t provide details on their framework. Republicans in the 10-member group had dropped their proposal for tying the gasoline tax to inflation and putting a fee on electric vehicles, which the administration opposed. They had been haggling over how much revenue could be raised to offset spending on spending for roads, bridges and other projects through stricter enforcement of tax law.

The negotiators reduced the total to $559 billion by cutting new broadband spending by $20 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter

“I would call this a much sturdier framework that obviously we wouldn’t be going to the White House if it didn’t have broad based support,” said Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and a member of the group.

In addition to receiving Biden’s support, the senators 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. Success also will hinge on whether progressive Democrats in the House and Senate are assured that their priorities are met in a separate, more expansive package that would use a fast-track procedure known as reconciliation to clear the Senate without needing GOP votes.

That two-track process was the subject of a separate meeting Wednesday night between Ricchetti and other aides to Biden and the two top Democrats in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We’re all on the same page,” Schumer said afterward, adding that both packages were moving forward. “One can’t be done without the other,” he said. “The first act will be completed in July.”

Schumer said Congress would vote on the budget resolution setting up a fast track process in July while leaving the subsequent reconciliation legislation enacting Biden agenda for later.

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