Republicans Waver on Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal
The Debt

Republicans Waver on Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal


As Democrats debate the size and scope of their “human infrastructure” package, the bipartisan deal for core infrastructure investments that senators reached with the White House is reportedly at risk of stalling as Republicans raise concerns about the proposed financing.

Eleven Republican senators have endorsed the plan, which calls for nearly $600 billion in new spending on road, bridges and other “hard” infrastructure over five years. But five of the 11 told CNN on Monday that they could still withdraw their support given their concerns about some of the proposals to pay for the measure — including increased IRS enforcement — and Democratic plans to push a larger partisan bill alongside the bipartisan effort.

“Part of the motivation is trying to make certain that we don’t spend $6 trillion," Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) said on Monday evening, according to Politico. If "this is lending itself toward that outcome then I would no longer be a yes at that point in time."

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) reportedly said he wants to see the final language in the bill, and a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. Budget experts have said that the mix of revenue raisers and spending reductions proposed to cover the new spending will fall well short of fully offsetting the costs.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), one of the negotiators behind the deal, reportedly acknowledged as much on Monday, saying that the CBO estimate might exclude gains from some of the stepped-up IRS enforcement. “We’ve always thought the infrastructure pay-fors were going to be a challenge,” Portman said. “We want to have pay-fors. We’ve got some good ones. The CBO might not give us full credit.”

That could lead Republicans to bolt — or at least force the negotiators to try to find some additional financing.

“I think a lot of our members are going to look at, how credible are the pay-fors? And how large is this?” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD). “For our members, it’s really going to come down to, is this going to be all put on the debt and financed on top of all the other debt and spending that we’ve done in the last 15 months? Or are some of these pay-fors actually going to be pay-fors?”

Who’s solid and who’s on the fence: Politico notes that the five GOP senators who negotiated the deal remain solidly behind it. Those five are Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah. But the support from Sens. Burr, Moran, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana is less firm.

Adding to the uncertainty, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has yet to back the bipartisan deal. “Republicans believe that if he urges his colleagues to vote against the bipartisan deal, it could ultimately collapse,” CNN notes.

Senate passage of the bipartisan package would require 10 Republican votes, assuming the chamber’s 50 Democrats unite behind the bill, which is not given.

What’s next: The bipartisan senate group behind the bill was expected to meet again on Tuesday, and the drafting of the legislation is expected to drag into next week. "We're going to have to spend the time and energy to deal with all the issues outstanding, and there are a lot of issues that are outstanding," Romney said, according to CNN. "This is a major piece of legislation, which deals with the work of many committees, and so I can't possibly predict how long it will take."

If Republican support for the deal collapses, Democrats would have to roll the two bills being crafted into one large package that they could try to pass via reconciliation.