Infrastructure Talks at Risk of Collapse as They Reach ‘Critical Moment’

Infrastructure Talks at Risk of Collapse as They Reach ‘Critical Moment’

Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA

Today was supposed to be the day. Negotiators scrambling to finalize a bipartisan infrastructure agreement had hoped to settle their remaining differences by Monday. Instead, the talks hit another roadblock as the informal deadline approached, with lawmakers publicly sniping over a host of lingering sticking points.

The Associated Press reports: “Disputes have surfaced over how much money should go to public transit and water projects. And other disagreements over spending and wage requirements for highways, broadband and other areas remain unresolved, as well as whether to take unspent COVID-19 relief money to help pay for the infrastructure.”

Democrats had reportedly sent Republicans a proposal late Sunday to address the outstanding issues, including an offer to accept the GOP position on highway spending if Republicans agreed to the Democratic stance on public transit. Republicans rejected the offer, reportedly disputing the characterization of the highway-for-transit offer and arguing that it sought to reopen issues that negotiators had already settled. For their part, Democrats said that Sen. Mitt Romney “reneged” on a deal to provide $55 billion in funding for water infrastructure and add $15 billion to address lead pipe contamination, a charge Romney’s office called “laughably false.”

So, like we said, not looking good. You can read more about the subsequent blame game at CNN, Politico or The Hill.

A ‘critical moment’: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Monday that talks had reached a “critical moment.” He added that he is “fully committed” to passing a bipartisan infrastructure package this summer, but warned that the prolonged talks could mean that the Senate has to work over this weekend or forego some of its August recess. "The bipartisan group of senators has had nearly five weeks of negotiations since they first announced an agreement with President Biden. It's time for everyone to get to yes and produce an outcome," Schumer said.

Asked about the outlook for an agreement, President Joe Biden told reporters that he’s still optimistic. And officials involved in the talks said on Sunday that they were close and still hoped to seal a deal.

Trump tries to tank the deal: Former President Donald Trump issued a statement Monday claiming that Senate Republicans “are being absolutely savaged by Democrats on the so-called ‘bipartisan’ infrastructure bill” and urging Republicans to drop the infrastructure talks until after the 2022 elections or until they have a stronger negotiating position.

"Don’t do the infrastructure deal,” Trump said. “Republicans, don’t let the Radical Left play you for weak fools and losers!"

What’s next: The group of 10 senators leading the negotiations is reportedly set to meet again Monday evening.