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Bipartisan Senate group rules out tax hikes on infrastructure

A bipartisan Senate group is taking tax increases off the table as lawmakers try to craft an infrastructure proposal after GOP talks with the White House collapsed Tuesday.

Raising taxes on high-income earners and corporations has been a key part of President BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE's infrastructure plan, making it nearly impossible to garner enough GOP support for legislation that can clear the Senate.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterWhite House digs in as infrastructure talks stall White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure Biden risks break with progressives on infrastructure MORE (D-Mont.), who is in the bipartisan group, said tax increases are not under consideration as senators attempt to reach consensus on how to pay for their plan.

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When asked Wednesday if tax hikes were out, Tester responded: "That's my understanding. I think there's ways to do that; hopefully it won't be smoke and mirrors. Bottom line, this is probably the hardest part from my perspective, is how you get it paid for."

The Montana Democrat stopped short of saying whether he thought the White House would support a proposal that ruled out tax increases, adding "if it's paid for, I think they would be."

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed MORE (R-Utah), another member of the bipartisan group, also told reporters on Wednesday that Republicans won't agree to tax increases as part of infrastructure talks.

The group is expected to be looking at a proposal of around $900 billion, but they've been careful not to publicly release a number, saying the level of spending isn't yet locked in. Biden's initial infrastructure proposal exceeded $2.2 trillion.

The red line on taxes comes after the bipartisan group met Tuesday night in a Senate basement office as they try to craft a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

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"We made a lot of good progress. ... We went through line by line and we've got pretty good agreement on most of those" components, Romney told reporters after the late-night meeting.

Members of the group are also haggling over how to pay for their bill, which has been a perennial sticking point in infrastructure talks.

"Went through the payfors as well and they're a little less solid," Romney said.

The bipartisan talks come shortly after negotiations between the White House and Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave MORE (R-W.Va.), were called off.

Capito's talks with the White House had the blessing of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' Democrats' narrow chance to retain control after 2022 MORE (Ky.), and Capito said if she had been able to get a deal she was prepared to bring at least half of the caucus on board.

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Biden is now expected to shift to negotiations with the bipartisan group of lawmakers that also includes Sens. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden is keeping the filibuster to have 'a Joe Manchin presidency' Sanders says he's 'tired of talking' about Manchin, Sinema MORE (D-Ariz.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyWhite House digs in as infrastructure talks stall Portman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R-La.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Senators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden is keeping the filibuster to have 'a Joe Manchin presidency' MORE (D-W.Va.) in pursuit of a potential deal that could gain Republican support.

Capito indicated to reporters on Wednesday that she thought the bipartisan group factored into the White House's willingness to continue their talks.

“I mean obviously I was negotiating in good faith with the president," Capito said. "When other ideas come up that are presented to be bigger, better that had an effect, I think, on our negotiations."