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 Biden’s infrastructure plan, making it nearly impossible to garner enough GOP support for legislation that can clear the Senate.

Sen. Jon Tester (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.

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 Romney (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.

“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 Capito (R-W.Va.), were called off.

Capito’s talks with the White House had the blessing of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (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.

Biden is now expected to shift to negotiations with the bipartisan group of lawmakers that also includes Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Joe Manchin (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.”

Tags Bill Cassidy bipartisan talks corporate tax rate Infrastructure Joe Biden Joe Manchin Jon Tester Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Shelley Moore Capito tax hikes

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