White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday that Biden’s senior staff had “two productive meetings” that resulted in “progress towards an outline of a potential agreement, and the President has invited the group to come to the White House tomorrow to discuss this in person.”
Members of the group of 21 senators said they had agreed with administration officials on the broad outlines of a package and were optimistic the meeting with Biden would produce a final deal.
“Republicans and Democrats have come together along with the White House and we’ve agreed on a framework and we’re gonna be heading to the White House tomorrow,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters.
“I would say that we’re very, very close and we’re going to now do the outreach,” added Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) as he left an evening meeting with the other senators and White House team.
“We got our framework. We’re going to the White House,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). “We wouldn’t be going to the White House if we didn’t think it has broad-based support.”
The Senate group was focusing its efforts on legislation costing $1.2 trillion over eight years, a far cry from the sweeping $4 trillion infrastructure plans initially proposed by Biden. The so-called American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan would fund roads, bridges and broadband internet but also the so-called “care economy” of child care centers, hospitals and elder care.
A major sticking point in negotiations was how to pay for an estimated $579 billion in new spending. Republicans have rejected Biden’s proposal to increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, while the president nixed a GOP idea to link gas taxes to inflation.
“We have a good, good, balanced group of pay-fors,” Portman said. “That was important to both sides. I will say, in good faith, we tried to get there. We didn’t agree on everything, but we were able to get there.”
The Senate group includes moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Manchin, in particular, has said he will oppose any infrastructure bill that does not include input from both parties. However, progressive Democrats in both chambers have warned that an infrastructure bill that does not address issues related to climate change won’t get their support.
“That deal has 20 votes,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told CNN Wednesday. “Not 60 votes.”
The White House team huddled late into the evening with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), after which Pelosi said they were “very excited about the prospect of a bipartisan agreement.”
Schumer said the leaders “support the concepts” they have heard from the bipartisan negotiations.
But the pair also insisted that Congress consider both the bipartisan deal and the massive Democratic proposal, now drafted to cost nearly $6 trillion. That package would run through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow passage of Biden’s priorities by majority vote without the need for support from Republicans to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.
Schumer said, “One can’t be done without the other.”
With Post wires