Transportation

Democrats closing in on deal to unlock massive infrastructure bill

Senate Democrats say they are close to a deal on a budget resolution that will pave the way for them to pass a sweeping, multitrillion-dollar bill later this year.

“The Senate Budget Committee is close to finalizing a budget resolution which will allow the Senate to move forward with the remaining parts of the American jobs and families plan,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, referring to President Biden’s two infrastructure proposals.

Schumer met with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the chairman of the panel, and committee Democrats on Monday night for roughly two hours. 
 
While they didn’t come out with an agreement on the top line for the Democratic-only infrastructure package, several members said they made “a lot of progress” and are planning to meet again on Tuesday. 
 
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told reporters that Democrats are hoping to reach an agreement on the budget resolution that will include the instructions and price tag for passing a bill under reconciliation — the budget process that lets them bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster — by Thursday, when the Senate typically leaves town for the week. 
 
“That is the goal. Yes,” Merkley said about Thursday’s timeline. “We’re just at the situation that there’s so much that has to happen.” 
 
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he thought there was a “decent chance” Democrats could have an agreement on the budget resolution after Tuesday night’s meeting. 
 
“That wouldn’t have happened without tonight,” he said, referring to the hours-long meeting. 
 
Other members were hesitant to put a firm timeline on the talks, noting that the discussions were ongoing. 
 
“We are hoping to do it as soon as possible, so I’m not sure the exact timeline,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a member of leadership and the Budget Committee.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the Budget panel, declined to comment on reports that Democrats are looking at a price tag of between $3 trillion and $4 trillion for their reconciliation package but indicated they could soon be ready to share details.

“Hopefully there will be news soon,” he said, noting that reporters should prepare for a week of meetings as Democrats try to make progress on their biggest legislative priority. 

He declined to comment after the Budget Committee meeting except to say that members were making “great progress.”

Warner has emerged as a key figure in the talks with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Schumer’s No. 2, indicating that Schumer is working with Warner and Sanders to secure a deal on the budget resolution that will set the price tag and include instructions for the Democratic-only bill. 

Sanders, speaking to reporters at the White House after meeting with Biden, declined to weigh in on a specific top-line number but vowed that he’s working to create the “strongest possible legislation.”

“We are in the midst of very serious discussions,” he said, adding that he believes the “strong majority” of the Senate Democratic caucus wants to go “as big as we possibly can.”

He indicated after the closed-door meeting that talks about the price tag were ongoing.

Democratic senators are vowing to vote during this work period, tentatively scheduled to last through the first week of August, on both the budget resolution that greenlights reconciliation and the smaller bipartisan deal that would spend $1.2 trillion over eight years on infrastructure.

Members of the bipartisan group, which now totals 22 members, are working to turn their proposal into legislative text. Democrats could bring that measure to the floor as soon as next week, though there’s skepticism that the group will finish by then. 

Schumer on Monday indicated that he believed the bipartisan group is making progress.

“On the bipartisan track, our committees are getting closer to turning the recent agreement between the White House and [the] bipartisan infrastructure group into legislation. I’m pleased to report we are making very good progress toward that goal,” Schumer said.

But the bipartisan deal is also facing skepticism from some of the 11 GOP senators who signed on to the framework amid concerns about whether the group will be able to find a way to pay for the agreement. 

“We don’t know what’s in it yet,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said. “We’re going to wait and look at the final thing. There are still a lot of negotiations going on.

Asked how locked down the pay-fors are, Rounds said, “I don’t think they’re totally locked down. I think that’s still a matter for discussion.”

Updated at 9:51 p.m.

Tags American Families Plan american jobs plan Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Chris Van Hollen Debbie Stabenow Dick Durbin Infrastructure Jeff Merkley Joe Biden Mark Warner Mike Rounds
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