Senators and Biden Aides Struggle to Save Bipartisan Infrastructure

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WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators and the Biden administration nearly Bilateral deal worth $600 billion Investing in roads, water pipes and other physical infrastructure after Republicans rejected a key component to pay for the plan and resisted Democratic plans for a first procedural vote Wednesday.

Senators and administration officials still Working to crack the details Including how a plan to finance the deal would secure 60 votes for passage from the Senate. White House officials on Monday expressed confidence that the deal could be finalized. But his fate was uncertain.

Mr. Biden is partially pushing his economic agenda. The bipartisan agreement was supposed to be Step 1 – a much larger, Democratic bill to follow. But weeks later deal announcement, the bipartisan group has not published legal text or received outside confirmation that it is fully funded. A senior negotiator said over the weekend that the group rejected a key plan in the deal that would increase revenue by giving the IRS more power to catch tax fraud.

Republicans have come under pressure to oppose this funding method by conservative anti-tax groups, which say it would empower auditors to harass business owners and political targets. Democrats say the increased enforcement will target large corporations and people earning more than $400,000 – and point out that improved tax enforcement is a dual goal of administrations dating back decades.

Yet Monday evening, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, launched a procedural vote Wednesday to begin discussion on the bipartisan agreement, even without the text of the plan. Mr. Schumer, if senators agree to consider infrastructure It would bring up the bipartisan agreement if it came to pass this week, or a series of individual infrastructure bills that were approved bilaterally by Senate committees.

The plan was an effort to force negotiators to finalize details and commit a critical mass of Republicans to pushing the deal forward, and Democrats were keen to move the law forward before the Senate left for the August break. Mr Schumer said he received support from the five main Democratic negotiators who attended the talks.

“There is no deadline to determine every detail of the bill,” he said. He added that a vote of support on Wednesday would signal “the Senate is ready to begin discussing and amending a bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

On Monday, Mr. Biden pressed for the deal to pass during statements at the White House, where he supports his administration’s economic progress. But administration officials made it clear later in the day that they were running out of patience to finalize the bilateral deal.

“We believe it’s time to move forward with this vote – with congressional action,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing. Psaki objected to this when asked what the management’s backup plan was should the plan fail the test vote.

“We’re not quite there yet,” he said. “There’s a lot of good work being done. Two days in Washington is a lifetime, so I don’t think we’re going to speculate on the demise of the infrastructure package.”

Republican leaders said they would like to see the legislative text before voting on a deal.

“We need to see the bill before we vote. I think that’s pretty straightforward, Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters Monday. “I think we should see the bill before we decide whether to vote or not.”

Democrats argued that the negotiators had about a month. iron the details and that the Senate had previously received procedural votes without the final text of the bill – including when Mr. McConnell’s failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

The biggest sticking point is how the plan will be paid for. The IRS plan is estimated to generate more than $100 billion in new tax revenue over ten years.

It is unclear what the group will do as a backup. White House officials and 10 core Senate negotiators — five Democrats and five Republicans — were working Monday to find a new source of income.

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman and a key negotiator on Sunday voiced the possibility of reversing the Trump-era rule that changed the way pharmaceutical companies offer discounts to health plans for Medicare patients as an option. Congressional Budget Office predicted in 2019 It would cost $177 billion over 10 years and the rule has not yet been implemented.

Ms Psaki told reporters that the administration is “open to alternatives, very open to alternatives in that respect”.

“But we’re going to let these conversations happen in private and we’re going to support them on our part,” he said.

The senators were expected to meet virtually Monday evening as they continued to negotiate details. The group met for over two hours on Sunday evening.

Mr Biden continued to push for legislative action Monday, citing his economic policies as well as vaccination efforts as a critical driver of boosting growth. He promised to turn down Republican criticism by restricting price increases while the remaining agenda items help Americans work harder and earn more money.

Administration officials and Mr. Biden say the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan – the larger bill to follow the bipartisan infrastructure bill – will increase efficiency and reduce price pressures. The president said the proposals would free up Americans to work harder through subsidized childcare, national paid leave and other measures, and increase the efficiency of the economy.

Mr Biden said spending “will not increase inflation”. “It will remove the pressure on inflation”

He also said he trusts the independent Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome H. Powell, to manage the situation. The Fed is responsible for maintaining both price stability and maximum employment.

“As I made clear to Federal Reserve Chairman Powell when we met recently, the Fed is independent. “It should take whatever steps it deems necessary to support a strong and lasting economic recovery.” “But whatever differing opinions some may have about the current price hikes, we must be united on one thing: the transition of the bipartisan infrastructure framework that we shook hands with.”

Mr. Biden used it to push more of the talk. $3.5 trillion planThat bypassed a filibuster in the Senate, which Democrats aim to follow without Republican support through a process known as the budget reconciliation.

While describing the various social and environmental initiatives he hopes to include in the plan, the President has repeatedly stressed the need for government action as a way to raise living standards and create jobs.

This plan includes much of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda not included in the bipartisan bill, such as expanding access to education, building more affordable and energy efficient housing, promoting low-carbon energy through tax credits, and a wide variety of other things. social programs aimed at investing in workers.

Republicans have also raised concerns about inflation since Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill in March. In letter “The prices of everything from gas to groceries are skyrocketing,” Republican leader California Representative Kevin McCarthy said at his conference this week. “We will continue to hold Democrats accountable for their reckless handling of the economy,” he said.

Mr. Biden’s economic team said many times He said the rises in inflation are largely a product of the pandemic and will subside in the coming months or years.

Mr. Biden dismissed a reporter’s question after speaking about the potential for uncontrolled inflation, which he said no serious economist had anticipated.

Margot Sanger-Katz and Catie Edmondson contributing reporting.

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