House Problem Solvers Caucus Backs Infrastructure Deal; McConnell Vows 'Hell of a Fight'
The House Problem Solvers Caucus on Tuesday endorsed the infrastructure deal negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House, broadening the base of support for the agreement and signaling that the framework could draw some Republican backing in the House. If the group’s 29 Republican members vote in favor of the package, Democrats could afford to lose the votes of some skeptical progressives and still pass the legislation.
At the same time, the Problem Solvers urged that the legislation be brought up for a stand-alone vote in the House — potentially creating a problem for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has insisted that the package will only be considered alongside a larger one focused on caregiving and climate change that Democrats are likely to try to pass on a partisan basis.
The Problem Solvers Caucus said it “strongly supports” the Senate deal and noted that the framework closely aligns with an infrastructure proposal it released last month. “In light of the bipartisan, bicameral genesis of the framework, we encourage an expeditious, stand-alone vote in the House and thank our bipartisan Senate partners and the Biden Administration for working so closely with us to demonstrate that cooperation is still possible in Washington,” the group said.
Democratic resistance in the Senate: Key Senate Democrats are expressing concern about the proposed financing for the deal and calling for higher corporate tax rates instead of repurposing unspent Covid relief funds for unemployment benefits and state aid.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) has been working on his own proposal to pay for an infrastructure package, according to The Hill: “The Oregon Democrat is focused on raising an estimated $1 trillion from corporations as well as more than $300 billion from taxing unrealized capital gains, according to a source familiar with internal Democratic discussions.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), another member of the Finance Committee, also questioned the proposed pay-fors in the infrastructure deal. He said negotiators “used every conceivable thing other than normal increases in fees or taxes to pay for it,” according to The Hill.
McConnell vows a ‘hell of a fight’ coming: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that Republicans would push back against Democratic attempts to use a special process called reconciliation to pass that broader spending package without GOP support. "The era of bipartisanship on this stuff is over,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky. “This is not going to be done on a bipartisan basis. This is going to be a hell of a fight over what this country ought to look like in the future and it's going to unfold here in the next few weeks. I don't think we've had a bigger difference of opinion between the two parties."
McConnell also reiterated his insistence that the bipartisan package be “credibly paid for, as opposed to adding it to the debt,” but added that there may be a path forward on that infrastructure legislation.
The bottom line: It’s not clear whether Democrats who have threatened to oppose the bipartisan package would ultimately buck President Biden if he presses for them to fall in line, but key elements of the deal continue to face resistance from both the left and right. The legislation, which is still being crafted, still faces plenty of hurdles — and Democrats have yet to agree on the specifics of their partisan bill, with progressives and moderates reportedly trillions of dollars apart.