A bipartisan group of senators announced on Thursday evening that they had struck an early infrastructure deal, though it faces major political hurdles.
The faction includes Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio, as well as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Jon Tester of Montana. The group sprung up as President Joe Biden’s negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, steadily collapsed.
“Our group – comprised of 10 Senators, 5 from each party – has worked in good faith and reached a bipartisan agreement on a realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies,” the group said in a joint statement. “This investment would be fully paid for and not include tax increases.”
They added that they were “optimistic” they could lay the groundwork to attract major support.
A Republican aide confirmed to Insider that the deal was focused on core infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and broadband. It will encompass $1.2 trillion in spending over an eight-year period and only $579 billion in fresh spending beyond what Congress has already approved.
It also includes a gas tax indexed to inflation, which had been floated by Sen. Mitt Romney earlier in the day. That’s projected to raise between $30 billion and $35 billion over ten years, per Seth Hanlon, a tax expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
But the early outlines of the deal faced a steep climb to secure votes in both parties, and it is unclear whether the White House will support it. Democrats are likely to balk at the omission of tax hikes on large firms and wealthy earners, while Republicans are likely to heap criticism onto the scale of new spending.
Congressional Democrats in both the House and Senate are already setting the stage to use reconciliation, a tactic to approve some bills with only a simple majority. Some were starting to lose patience with the crawling pace of the discussions with Republicans.
“I don’t understand why these [Democrats] want to give away the store when there are only five Republican votes to gain,” one Democratic aide, granted anonymity to speak candidly, told Insider. “That’s a completely useless number of votes.”
The package may also omit a significant chunk of climate priorities sought by many Democrats, imperiling its odds of passage. Biden’s two-part economic package includes an array of measures like support to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations, research in clean energy, and funds to retrofit homes.
Several Senate Democrats, including Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of Senate Finance Committee, are threatening to withhold their support from a bipartisan deal if it doesn’t sufficiently combat climate change. “On a big infrastructure bill, to pass on climate altogether? No way,” Wyden told Insider. “Think I’m blunt enough? No way.”