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 Portman (Ohio), who led the negotiations for the Republicans.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), lead negotiator for the Democrats, said President Biden supports the agreement.

“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 McConnell (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 Schumer (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.

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 Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters that he was inclined to vote to start debate. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.C.) said they will vote to start debate.

If the Senate is able to start its debate, Sen. John Thune (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.

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 Warner (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.

Tags budget reconciliation Charles Schumer Filibuster Infrastructure Joe Biden John Thune Jon Tester Kevin Cramer Kyrsten Sinema Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Mark Warner Mitch McConnell Richard Burr Rob Portman Thom Tillis

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