On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 20 senators, 10 from each party, announced they are backing a framework for an infrastructure bill. The senators stated that they are discussing their strategy with their colleagues and the White House and are hopeful of receiving widespread support.
Per Reuters, the group said in a statement, "We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to draft legislation based on this framework to solve America's vital infrastructure issues."
The remark came after a smaller bipartisan group of senators said last week that they agreed on an infrastructure plan that would cost $974 billion over five years and $1.2 trillion over eight years, as well as contain $579 billion in additional spending. According to a congressional source involved with the discussions, the deal proposes using unspent COVID-19 funds and collecting money to support infrastructure investments by indexing the federal tax on fuel to account for inflation.
The White House responded that it will engage with senators to resolve policy and budget concerns. A source familiar with President Joe Biden's views noted that the administration opposes any attempt to index fuel prices to inflation.
Democrats raise alarms on an infrastructure plan
Not all Democrats in Congress approved of the still-forming bipartisan infrastructure bill. They claim that the roughly $1 trillion proposal will fall short of their goals to stimulate the economy and address wider issues like climate change. New political rifts have emerged as a result of an early agreement reached by ten senators from both parties.
Their plan, which has not been made public, aims to break a months-long impasse over delayed public works funding following the breakdown of discussions between President Biden and Senate Republicans earlier this month. On Tuesday, when the architects of the bipartisan Senate proposal started offering its ideas to their members in the hope of gaining political support, several Democrats, particularly liberals, slammed the approach.
They questioned the budget, which includes $579 billion in new expenditure because it is far less than the $2.2 trillion Biden proposed as part of his American Jobs Plan. They also expressed fears that Senate negotiators may have given up too many of their policy goals in exchange for Republican support, thereby endangering Democratic votes.
Senators are readying to present the White House with a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. "The fact is that the American people - Democrats, independents, and Republicans - want us to go big, bold, and get it done now because there is a real urgency," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), the Congressional Progressive Caucus leader, The Washington Post via MSN reported.
Dissension among Democratic ranks has been developing behind the scenes, with legislators warning the White House publicly and privately that the administration is risking losing support from their party, particularly if crucial climate-change measures are toned down to get Republican votes. As a result, the administration has arranged private talks with key Democrats to ease their worries.
Manchin says no to an infrastructure bill without GOP support
Sen. Joe Manchin, a key Democratic swing vote, said on Wednesday that he would not commit to voting for an infrastructure bill on party lines. Manchin turned down a demand from liberals who wanted to ensure that if they supported his bipartisan proposal, he would be on board with a bigger package enacted without Republican support.
"It shouldn't be conditional in any way. It should be based on the merits of the measure," said Manchin, as per Local News 8.
The West Virginia Democrat said he wouldn't rule out voting for a bill that was passed entirely by Democrats. However, he said that asking him to support legislation pushed through reconciliation - a procedural method that allows Democrats to approve a measure with a simple majority - isn't fair.
The statements from the centrist Democrat threaten to upend Democratic leaders' delicate balancing act as they adopt a two-track strategy to President Joe Biden's major infrastructure goals. Democrats are encouraging efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement that would appeal to moderate Democrats like Manchin, while also laying the groundwork for a bill passed solely on party lines to include elements of Biden's infrastructure agenda that would otherwise be excluded from any potential bipartisan agreement.