GOP senators say bipartisan group has infrastructure deal

Republican senators who are negotiating within a bipartisan group of 10 senators say they have reached a tentative deal on the size of an infrastructure package and how to pay for it.

The emerging deal would spend only a fraction of the $4.1 trillion investment President Biden has called for and would not raise taxes, which could make it a tough sell within the broader Senate Democratic caucus. 

Members of the bipartisan group cautioned Thursday that the tentative deal still needs to be presented to the Senate Republican conference and the White House to see if there’s broader buy-in. 

“We have a tentative agreement on the pay-fors, yes, but that’s among the five Democrats and the five Republicans. It has not been taken to our respective caucuses or the White House so we’re in the middle of the process. We’re not at the end of the process, not at the beginning but we’re in the middle,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a member of the group.

Romney said there’s also a tentative agreement to the overall top-line spending number.

“I believe it’s complete but others may have a different point of view,” he said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another member of the group, confirmed there is a tentative deal and called it a “significant” sign of progress.

“Among the ten of us there is a tentative agreement on a framework but obviously there’s a long ways to go. I would not say that we have the leaders on board or we have started negotiating with the White House but I think having 10 senators come together and reach an agreement on a framework is significant,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier on Thursday that Republicans "haven't given up hope" for a bipartisan infrastructure deal with the Biden administration.

"We haven't given up hope that we'll be able to reach a deal on something really important for the country that we really need to accomplish, and that is a major infrastructure bill," McConnell said during an interview with Fox News.

"Yeah, I think it's clearly possible. We haven't given up on reaching an agreement on infrastructure. ... I think there's a good chance we can get there," he added.

Other members of the bipartisan group weren’t quite willing to say they’ve agreed to the overall spending number until they’ve had a chance to bounce it off more of their colleagues. 

“We’re continuing to get input from people. Nothing’s final,” said a senator involved in the talks.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she knew members of the bipartisan group were very close to a deal on the broad outlines of a scaled-down infrastructure spending package and predicted it would be similar to what she offered to Biden in recent weeks.

“They were pretty close, I think, the last time I talked to them,” she said. 

“I haven’t seen the details of their report but I think a lot of what they have is a lot of what I had in terms of definitionally what infrastructure is,” she added.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), one of the Republican negotiators in the bipartisan group, said a key difference between what Senate Republicans outlined last month and what the group of ten Democrats and Republicans are putting together is the new package would include energy provisions that Biden wants.

“This will go back through committees, it will go through Finance [Committee] for the pay-fors, we still have to interact with the president but as far as the group’s concerned, we have a final offer,” Cassidy said Thursday.

The Louisiana Republican said the next step is to sell the bipartisan deal to the White House and the Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses.

“We’d have to, again, have our colleagues, whichever party you’re in, buy into it,” he said, adding the group has to “make sure the White House is OK with it.” 

Cassidy said the Senate group’s top-line spending number is similar to the $1.25 trillion infrastructure spending framework the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus unveiled earlier in the week.

That group’s plan would provide $762 billion in new spending over eight years.

“The Problem Solvers passed something which [is] pretty similar to ours in terms of top line and with the same categories and roughly the same everything else,” he said. “It’s all positive.”

Asked why Biden would accept the deal after he rejected Capito’s proposal, which was not drastically different, Cassidy pointed to a new energy section. 

“We have an energy section in ours that in my conversation with the president said he really wanted,” he said. 

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