Date: Friday, June 25th, 2021
Source: The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON—President Biden and a group of 10 centrist senators agreed to a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure plan Thursday, securing a long-sought bipartisan deal that lawmakers and the White House will now attempt to shepherd through Congress alongside a broader package sought by Democrats.
Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders said that advancing the deal on transportation, water and broadband infrastructure will hinge on the passage of more elements of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda. The two-track process sets up weeks of delicate negotiations to gather support for both the bipartisan plan and a separate Democratic proposal, a challenging task in the 50-50 Senate and the narrowly Democratic-controlled House.
“What we agreed on today is what we could agree on. The physical infrastructure. There’s no agreement on the rest,” said Mr. Biden, who said he wouldn’t sign the bipartisan deal into law until a bill containing the rest of his agenda also is on his desk. “If this is the only one that comes to me, I’m not signing it.”
With $579 billion of spending above expected federal levels and a total of $973 billion of investment over five years and $1.2 trillion if continued over eight, the agreement will make new investments in the electrical grid, transit, roads and bridges and other forms of infrastructure.
The cost of the spending will be covered by repurposing existing federal funds, public-private partnerships and revenue collected from enhanced enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service, according to a list distributed by the White House. The list also included sales from the strategic petroleum reserve and wireless-spectrum auction sales among the other revenue raisers.
Emerging from a noontime meeting at the White House to announce the deal, Republicans and Democrats cast the agreement as proof that bipartisan progress is still possible in a polarized Washington.
“We’ve agreed on the price tag, the scope and how to pay for it,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) on Thursday. “It was not easy to get agreement on all three, but it was essential.”
Mr. Biden framed the infrastructure investment as critical to compete with global rivals. “We’re in a race with China and the rest of the world for the 21st century,” he said. “This agreement signals to the world that we can function, deliver and do significant things.”
In trading Thursday, shares of machinery giant Caterpillar Inc., building-materials supplier Martin Marietta Materials Inc. and construction-aggregates producer Vulcan Materials Co. moved higher on news of the agreement.
While the framework between the bipartisan group of lawmakers and the White House marks an important step toward a final agreement, passing the legislation will require top Democrats to walk a tightrope between maintaining Republican support for one package and unifying Democrats around a second.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has said the Senate will simultaneously move forward with both a bipartisan agreement and a larger bill that includes spending on education, healthcare, and antipoverty efforts. Democrats can skirt the 60-vote threshold for advancing most Senate legislation through a budget process called reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said that the House won’t take up the bipartisan agreement until the Senate approves a package through reconciliation.
“I said there won’t be an infrastructure bill unless we have a reconciliation bill, plain and simple,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said passing two complex bills through different procedures at the same time would be challenging. The reconciliation process alone is time-consuming and complicated, he noted.
“I don’t know that it’s possible, but we’ll see,” he said. Mr. Durbin added that he wasn’t sure how Democratic leaders would be able to give liberal Democrats the reassurance they are seeking, given the procedural complexities. “That’s the tough part,” he said.
If some Democrats ultimately oppose the bipartisan infrastructure package, Republicans would need to sign on in larger numbers to ensure its passage. A group of 21 Senators, including 11 Republicans, have previously lent their support to the bipartisan efforts, though some of those lawmakers said Thursday they were still reviewing details of the emerging deal.
Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), the lead Republican negotiator, spoke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and other top Republicans Thursday morning to discuss the agreement. Mr. Portman said Mr. McConnell told him he was open-minded about the framework.