WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. senators said on Thursday they had reached agreement on a framework for a proposed infrastructure bill that would not include any tax increases.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to a reporter about the status of a deal on infrastructure legislation as he departs the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
In a statement, the group of five Republicans and five Democrats said they were discussing their approach with their colleagues and the Biden White House, and were optimistic about getting broad support.
“Our group … 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 statement said. “This investment would be fully paid for and not include tax increases.”
The statement gave no details of the agreement. But a source familiar with the deal said it would cost $974 billion over five years and $1.2 trillion over eight years and includes $579 billion in new spending
Democratic U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier on Thursday he was open to considering a bipartisan infrastructure bill, but wanted to see it in writing – and added he might also push for a follow-up measure that had only his party’s support.
President Joe Biden’s push for a sweeping $1.7 trillion package in Congress to revamp roads and bridges and tackle such other issues as education and home healthcare faced a setback here earlier this week when Biden, a Democrat, rejected a far smaller proposal put forward by Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito.
That left room for the group of 10 moderate senators from the two parties to pitch a new idea designed to generate enough support to pass through the 100-seat Senate with the 60 votes necessary for most bills.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also told the group he was open to their ideas, Republicans said.
Schumer said work was still progressing on two tracks – one a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the other a measure that if brought to the floor, could pass with only Democratic votes through a maneuver called reconciliation that bypasses the rule requiring 60 votes for bills to advance. Biden and Schumer have talked about such a two-track approach
SCHUMER: ‘I’LL LOOK AT IT’
“I was told verbally, stuff, I’ve asked for paper, I’ll look at it,” Schumer said earlier on Thursday. “But we continue to proceed on two tracks. A bipartisan track and a reconciliation track, and both are moving forward.”
Republicans and Democrats in the 10-senator negotiating group had said they were making progress on Thursday.
The senators in the group are Democrats Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen, Kyrsten Sinema, Jon Tester and Mark Warner, and Republicans Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman and Mitt Romney.
Collins, told Reuters earlier the group had a good meeting with McConnell this week. “He certainly did not commit one way or the other. But he’s in a listening mode,” she said.
Manchin, a centrist Democrat in the negotiating group, told reporters that “things are going in the right direction.”
Romney said there was also “general agreement” on a top line spending figure but it was not set in concrete. He did not specify the number, but told reporters that the expected package would be paid for, in part, by indexing the federal tax on gasoline to inflation.
He and Tester also spoke of a provision that might raise revenue by having the Internal Revenue Service go after tax cheats.
At the same time, infrastructure-related transportation bills moved forward at the congressional committee level.
A House of Representatives panel on Thursday ended more than 17 hours of debate with a 38-26 vote authorizing $547 billion in additional spending for surface transportation.
The Senate Commerce Committee was also set to unveil a $78 billion surface transportation bill, according to sources.
Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, said on Thursday she was encouraged by bipartisan negotiations in both the House of Representatives and Senate.
“We’re seeing progress on multiple fronts right now,” she told CNN. “This is how a bill becomes a law. It’s a process with many steps, and we’re encouraged by all of the progress happening on these different paths simultaneously.”
But the bipartisan push came under fire from some Democrats who have criticized a Republican approach that narrows the focus to physical infrastructure and rules out tax increases for corporations and the wealthy.
The Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties.
Republicans have rejected the president’s infrastructure plan, which would address climate change, build up some social programs and pay for itself by raising taxes on U.S. corporations.
Reporting by David Morgan, Susan Cornwell, David Shepardson, Richard Cowan and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller