The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal being hammered out in the Senate got a boost Wednesday as 21 Democratic and Republican senators publicly backed the framework.
“We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs without raising taxes,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to develop legislation based on this framework to address America’s critical infrastructure challenges.”
Within reach of the magic number: The announcement more than doubles the support base for the emerging deal being crafted by 10 senators — and because 11 Republicans have signed on, the compromise could, at least in theory, win the 60 votes needed to pass in the evenly divided Senate. “Their public support indicates that Republicans feel the urgency to reach a deal on popular physical infrastructure measures soon or risk Democrats cutting them out of the process,” NBC News’s Sahil Kapur, Dartunorro Clark and Frank Thorp V wrote.
Yet even as the bipartisan proposal gathers momentum, it still faces challenges in reaching the 60-vote threshold given that progressives including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) announced this week that they won’t back a bill that doesn’t address Democratic priorities like climate change. And key details of the bipartisan framework, including the potentially divisive specifics about financing the new spending, are reportedly still in flux.
Biden and congressional Democrats continue to work along two tracks, pursuing a bipartisan deal while also preparing to go it alone on a broader or separate package of investments for Democratic priorities such as child care, elder care and education.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met Wednesday with Democratic senators on the Budget Committee to advance that process, with the aim of having votes in July. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said the Budget Committee was crafting a package that “gives us a latitude to do what we need to do — we can shrink it if there’s a bipartisan deal, we could do the broader deal if there isn’t.”
Democrats still face obstacles in trying to bypass the GOP and passing a package via budget reconciliation, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Wednesday he won’t commit to backing a reconciliation bill later in exchange for securing other Democratic votes on a smaller, bipartisan bill now. Some Democrats had sought assurances that Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would support a second infrastructure package if lawmakers agreed to a smaller bipartisan deal.
Sanders seeking a $6 trillion package: Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters that he’s working on a $6 trillion budget reconciliation package —half of which is paid for —that would include lowering the eligibility age and expanding benefits coverage for Medicare and a plan to lower prescription drug costs. That plan faces resistance from centrist Democrats.
Who’s on board: The Republicans who endorsed the bipartisan plan on Wednesday are Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
The Democrats backing the plan are Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Sinema and Mark Warner of Virginia. Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also signed the statement.