Senators say they have deal on 'major issues' in infrastructure talks

Senators say they have reached a deal with the White House on the “major issues” in their bipartisan infrastructure talks and expect to start debate as soon as Wednesday.

“We now have an agreement on the major issues. We are prepared to move forward,” said Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE (Ohio), who led the negotiations for the Republicans.

Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaBiden pushes back at Democrats on taxes Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Of partisan fights and follies, or why Democrats should follow Manchin, not Sanders MORE (Ariz.), lead negotiator for the Democrats, said President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE supports the agreement.

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“We’re very excited to have a deal,” she told reporters, adding that text would start being released later Wednesday.

The agreement is a sharp U-turn from Monday when the talks appeared to be on life support and senators were scrambling to pull their deal back from the brink of collapse.

But negotiators appeared close early Wednesday morning, and the five key Republican negotiators huddled with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeking challenger to McConnell as Senate GOP leader: report Budget chairman: Debt ceiling fight 'a ridiculous position to be in' Buckle up for more Trump, courtesy of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ky.), describing him afterward as open-minded on the deal. Republicans are likely to discuss the agreement during their closed-door lunch on Wednesday.

And in a sign that a deal was imminent, Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) announced that senators should be prepared to vote to start debate as soon as Wednesday.

“Senators continue to make good progress on both tracks of legislation. Senators should be prepared to vote again on cloture on the motion to proceed to the bipartisan infrastructure bill as early as tonight,” Schumer said.

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Democrats, who normally don’t meet for lunch on Wednesdays, will also hold a special caucus meeting at 1 p.m., where senators are expected to be briefed on the bipartisan group’s agreement. 

To start debate, Schumer will need the support of 60 senators, meaning at least 10 Republicans if all 50 members of his caucus vote in favor of advancing.

All five of the core GOP negotiators are expected to vote to start debate. Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Trump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses MORE (R-S.C.) told reporters that he was inclined to vote to start debate. Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization Without major changes, more Americans could be victims of online crime How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) MORE (R-N.C.) and Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Memo: Biden beats Trump again — this time in the Senate The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Republicans unveil bill to ban federal funding of critical race theory MORE (R-N.C.) said they will vote to start debate.

If the Senate is able to start its debate, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Manchin-McConnell meet amid new voting rights push MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, predicted that it ultimately passes. He said he was open to supporting the deal, but wanted to see the text first. 

The vote comes after Republicans blocked debate on the measure last week. GOP negotiators at the time accused Schumer of rushing the process.

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The agreement comes after Biden and the bipartisan group announced late last month that they had reached a deal on a framework that would cost $1.2 trillion over eight years.

Since then they have struggled to lock down the details and agree on how to pay for the package. Their fight erupted into public Monday, as Republicans balked at a “global” offer made by the White House and Schumer.

If the Senate is able to start debate on what will effectively be a shell bill that the bipartisan text will be swapped into, Schumer has said lawmakers will work through the weekend.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerAdvocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Democrats draw red lines in spending fight Manchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill MORE (D-Va.), part of the bipartisan group, indicated during an interview with Punchbowl News that scenario was likely.

“To my friends in the press, I would cancel your weekend plans and then cancel all your dinner plans for the foreseeable future,” he said Wednesday morning.

But aides expect it will take at least a week to wrap up and get to a final vote on the bill. And Republicans are likely to push for votes on potential changes to the bill. 
 
"We'll advocate for an open amendment process," Thune said. "My assumption is at some point, if we get on it, that McConnell and Schumer will have to negotiate a deal that enables at least a good number of amendments to be offered." 
 
Thune added that some GOP senators were "going to be really dug in against it" and predicted that the Senate would have to use a "good amount of time" on the agreement before a final vote. 

Updated 1:12 p.m.