WASHINGTON—President Biden and a group of centrist senators agreed to a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure plan, securing a long-sought bipartisan deal on overhauling the nation’s transportation, water and broadband infrastructure that lawmakers and the White House will now attempt to shepherd through a closely-divided Capitol Hill.
“We had a really good meeting and to answer the direct question, we have a deal,” Mr. Biden told reporters at the White House. “We’ve all agreed that none of us got what we all would have wanted.”
“I clearly didn’t get all I wanted. They gave more than I think they were maybe inclined to give in the first place,” he added.
Drafts of the agreement had called for $579 billion of spending above expected federal levels, totaling $973 billion over five years and $1.2 trillion if continued over eight. The lawmakers had discussed financing the package with a mix of public-private partnerships, existing federal funds, and revenue collected from enhanced enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service.
Lawmakers had said Wednesday that they reached an agreement on an overall framework for a deal, with some details still to be worked out, pending Mr. Biden’s agreement.
“We’ve agreed on the price tag, the scope and how to pay for it,” said
Sen. Susan Collins
(R., Maine) on Thursday. “It was not easy to get agreement on all three, but it was essential.”
Lawmakers of both parties hailed the agreement, saying it demonstrated that bipartisanship is still possible in Washington.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to show the rest of the world that we can still get big things done in a bipartisan way,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.).
While the framework between the bipartisan group of lawmakers and the White House marks an important step toward a final agreement, passing the legislation is set to be a delicate balancing act.
Many Democrats on Capitol Hill have called for the party to wield their narrow control of the House and Senate to push through a separate, much broader package that incorporates more of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda.
Other, centrist Democrats, however, have said they favored a bipartisan product, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has said the Senate will simultaneously move forward with both a bipartisan agreement and a larger bill. Democrats can skirt the 60-vote threshold for advancing most Senate legislation through a budget process called reconciliation.
(D., Calif.) said Thursday that the House won’t take up the bipartisan agreement until the Senate approves a package through reconciliation.
“I said there won’t be an infrastructure bill unless we have a reconciliation bill, plain and simple,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
If some Democrats ultimately oppose the package, Republicans would need to sign on in larger numbers to ensure its passage. A group of 21 Senators, including 11 Republicans, have previously lent their support to the bipartisan efforts, though some of those lawmakers said Thursday they were still reviewing details of the emerging deal.
Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), the lead Republican negotiator, spoke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and other top Republicans Thursday morning to discuss the agreement. Mr. Portman said Mr. McConnell told him he was open minded about the framework.
A previous effort to craft an infrastructure agreement between the White House and a separate group of Senate Republicans fell apart earlier this month, with the GOP group proposing roughly $300 billion in funding above baseline levels.
Sen. John Thune
(R., S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said the plan’s funding for transit was potentially a problem for him. He said he wasn’t yet sure if the plan would win 60 votes and would need to discuss it with other Republicans.
“We’re going to have to socialize that,” Mr. Thune said.
Absent from the bipartisan deal are broad swaths of Mr. Biden’s original $2.3 trillion infrastructure package, which included hundreds of billions in funding for home care, housing, and workforce development, and his $1.8 trillion plan on childcare and education. It also doesn’t include the White House’s plan to raise taxes on corporations and high-income Americans to finance the cost of the spending.
Many Democrats are eager to approve elements of those proposals, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has floated a $6 trillion package Democrats could consider through reconciliation. Securing an agreement from centrist Democrats to move forward with reconciliation may not be straightforward, though.
Two centrist Democrats who have emphasized bipartisanship, Mr. Manchin of West Virginia and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, indicated Thursday they would be willing to work with party colleagues on helping craft a reconciliation plan.
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