Senators discussing bipartisan infrastructure plan

Senators discussing bipartisan infrastructure plan
© Greg Nash

Senators are quietly discussing a bipartisan infrastructure proposal amid divisions over President BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE's $2.3 trillion plan.

The talks, senators stressed, are very early on but would focus on a more limited infrastructure package that would include money for roads, bridges, railways and broadband.

"We're looking at the need we have in the country ... then you can find out what the size and what the cost is," said Sen. Joe ManchinJoe Manchin​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Sunday shows - Voting rights legislation dominates Kaine says core of spending bill will pass but most of it is 'dead' MORE (D-W.Va.), who is involved in the talks.

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Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats' filibuster gambit unravels Biden: 'I don't know whether we can get this done' Biden to huddle with Senate Democrats as voting bill on brink of defeat MORE (D-Mont.), who is a part of the bipartisan group, said they hadn't locked in a number for the size of a potential package, saying that "it's early."

"I'm not looking at a dollar figure. I'm looking at more of what we're spending it on," Tester said.

Biden's $2.3 trillion proposal includes money for roads and bridges, broadband, rail and water systems, but it also includes funding for in-home care, housing, clean energy, public schools and manufacturing.

Democrats have warned that they are willing to go it alone to pass Biden's infrastructure plan, but that would require the unity of their entire 50-member caucus.

A group of centrist-minded Democratic senators are talking up the possibility of peeling off part of Biden's proposal that garners bipartisan support and passing it as its own bill. Democrats could then try to get the rest of their package approved through budget reconciliation rules that would allow them to avoid a filibuster that would require 60 votes.

Other Democrats are pushing back at that plan, warning against holding out for GOP support that might not materialize. Democrats have tentatively given Republicans until the end of May to try to work out a deal.

Republicans proposed their own $568 billion infrastructure package last week. Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoLobbying world Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  Like it or not, all roads forward for Democrats go through Joe Manchin MORE (R-W.Va.) said she is providing data to the bipartisan talks.

A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers also met with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) last week, where they discussed trying to craft a smaller bipartisan plan.

Sen. Bill CassidyBill Cassidy​​Democrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Sunday shows - Voting rights legislation dominates GOP senator knocks Biden for 'spreading things that are untrue' in voting rights speech MORE (R-La.), who attended last Friday's meeting with Hogan, said there were currently talks to see if there could be a bipartisan consensus on infrastructure. But he was also careful not to get ahead of Capito, crediting her with creating a "pretty good plan."

"I think there's a real push to try and pull that off . ... Obviously whatever happens has to be bipartisan, so we'll see," Cassidy said, adding that there was "more common ground than you would think."