With Time Running Short, Paying for Infrastructure Deal Remains a Roadblock

With Time Running Short, Paying for Infrastructure Deal Remains a Roadblock

Reuters/Stephanie Keith

Lawmakers and the White House continue to haggle over an infrastructure deal, with differences over how to pay for the proposed spending still the major sticking point. The pressure to make progress is building as time draws short before senators are set to leave town late Thursday for a two-week July 4 recess.

“We all feel that very strongly. We have to have a deal before we leave tomorrow,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), according to The Wall Street Journal. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) similarly said it was essential to make some progress quickly: “Tomorrow people are going to be leaving, we’re going to be gone for two weeks,” he said. “It ain’t like I’m going to be easy to get a hold of. And so I think today is pretty critical.” And White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday President Joe Biden needs to see "progress over the next couple days."

Some optimism remains: “Inch by inch we’re making progress and it’s my hope that we can get something done by the end of the day,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters Wednesday, according to the Journal. And Republicans said they had agreed to up their estimate of how much revenue could be raised through increased IRS enforcement.

Still, while some Republicans said the White House is negotiating in good faith, others reportedly are questioning Biden’s desire to reach a bipartisan deal. Politico reports that “a growing number of GOP senators say the Biden administration isn’t showing enough flexibility when it comes to how to pay for any agreement, rejecting their proposals to raise user fees on drivers and resisting their push to raid coronavirus relief accounts for infrastructure.”

In a concession to Republicans, Democratic negotiators have taken Biden’s proposed tax hikes off the table but have pushed back on other GOP financing proposals. “The Romney-Manchin group came up with pay-fors, and the White House keeps knocking them down like bowling pins,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said, according to Politico. “One after the other, boom boom boom, until there’s nothing left besides 'sic the IRS on half the Western Hemisphere to raise the money'.”

The White House has also made clear it won’t let talks with the bipartisan Senate group drag on for long before shifting to focus on a plan to pass infrastructure legislation via the budget reconciliation process, which could avoid the need for Republican support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) were scheduled to meet with administration officials late Wednesday to discuss the bipartisan deal and the Democratic plan.