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Members of the bipartisan Senate group behind a compromise $579 billion infrastructure plan say more lawmakers are lining up in support, offering a glimmer of hope that it could draw enough votes to pass the Senate.
The 10 senators involved have yet to release a formal outline of their proposal, but they’ve been lobbying colleagues ahead of time.
“There are people who have not been part of our group who are going to sign a statement,” Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy told reporters. “There is going to be more than our original 10.”
Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, who has been leading the effort to get a compromise, said he was optimistic that they would get sufficient backing to make it a viable plan, “but it’s going to require some time.”
The group is still working on getting buy-in from Democratic and Republican leaders and the White House.
Democratic members of the group plan to meet White House officials later June 16 to discuss the plan, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said. White House economic adviser Brian Deese, legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell, and counselor Steve Ricchetti will attend the meeting, according to a person familiar with the talks.
President Joe Biden told reporters traveling with him in Geneva that his Chief of Staff Ron Klain thinks “there may be some room” for a deal — but that he hasn’t seen the proposal for himself.
“I honestly haven’t seen it. I don’t know what the details are,” he said.
GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters the group doesn’t plan to release text of its proposal until more support is secured.
Shaheen said some details, like whether to index the federal gasoline tax to inflation, are “fluid” in the wake of an objection to the idea from the White House, which calls it a tax increase on the poor and middle class.
Republican Todd Young of Indiana said he will add his support to the plan. He said that the White House is planning to offer a proposal to replace the $30 billion in revenue from indexing the gas tax and that a proposal for fees for electric vehicles also may be removed from the plan due to Democratic objections.
Other Republicans like Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Roger Wicker of Mississippi said they are encouraged by the plan but won’t sign on until it is finalized.
Cassidy said that any alternative funding source is subject to discussion with the White House and others outside the group.
The group is proposing $1.2 trillion over eight years for physical infrastructure, including already expected maintenance spending. Instead of the corporate tax increases Biden has put forward, the proposed compromise would boost tax enforcement, encourage private investment and repurpose unspent COVID relief and unemployment benefit funds.
The Senate group’s efforts come as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to jumpstart a possible Democratic-only alternative later June 16. He will meet with Budget Committee Democrats and urge them to produce a fast-track plan implementing Biden’s economic agenda that can gain the support of all 50 members of the Democratic caucus.
So far, key Democratic moderates such as Joe Manchin, a member of the bipartisan group, are not on board with sidestepping the GOP with a budget reconciliation bill. Manchin told reporters June 16 he won’t commit now to do doing a reconciliation bill later in exchange for securing Democratic votes for the draft bipartisan plan.
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