By Andrew Duehren and Kristina Peterson
WASHINGTON -- Members of a bipartisan group of senators said
they had reached an agreement on an infrastructure proposal that
would be fully paid for without tax increases, pitching the plan to
other lawmakers and the White House as they try to craft compromise
legislation on the issue.
While the group of 10 senators didn't reveal details of the plan
in its statement, people familiar with the agreement said it called
for $579 billion above expected future federal spending on
infrastructure. The overall proposal would spend $974 billion over
five years and $1.2 trillion if it continued over eight years,
according to some of the people.
The initial agreement comes days after President Biden called
off a separate set of negotiations with Senate Republicans over an
infrastructure plan, instead pivoting his focus to the talks among
the group of five Republicans and five Democrats.
To move forward in Congress, the plan would need the buy-in from
a broader group of Republicans and Democrats, as well as the White
House. In recent days, some Democrats have indicated they are
skeptical that the bipartisan talks will result in a large enough
"We are discussing our approach with our respective colleagues,
and the White House, and remain optimistic that this can lay the
groundwork to garner broad support from both parties and meet
America's infrastructure needs," said the group, which includes
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Joe
Manchin (D., W.Va.).
The White House didn't immediately comment on the announcement
by the senators.
Republicans said the infrastructure investments wouldn't be paid
for by tax increases, but lawmakers have been tight-lipped about
how they fund the package, expected to be the most contentious part
of the negotiations. Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah), another member of
the group, said earlier Thursday that the group was looking at
indexing the gas tax to inflation. The federal gasoline tax hasn't
been increased since 1993.
The new proposal is also expected to be paid for in part by
repurposing funds from previous Covid-aid packages, said Sen.
Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), who led the last round of
negotiations with Mr. Biden and has spoken with members of the
Mr. Biden last week indicated he would be open to using about
$75 billion of Covid aid passed during the Trump administration,
but administration officials said he wouldn't siphon any funds from
the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package passed earlier this
Mr. Biden ended talks with Mrs. Capito after she last offered
about $307 billion in new spending.
During the talks with Mrs. Capito, Mr. Biden sought at least $1
trillion in spending above the baseline, projected levels of
federal spending if current infrastructure programs continued. The
original White House plan came in at $2.3 trillion, showering money
on roads and bridges along with workforce development and home
care, among other programs. Many Democrats are eager to approve
much of that proposal.
The support of five Republicans for $579 billion in spending
above the baseline brings the two parties closer together on the
scope of the package. But in a Senate evenly divided between
Republicans and Democrats, at least 10 Republicans would need to
join every Democrat to pass the bill through regular order, and it
is unclear if the bipartisan agreement will attract that much
support from both Republicans and Democrats.
"Obviously to get Republican support for it you'd have to have a
lot more of our members involved in the conversation, and to get
enough Democrats," said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D), the No. 2
Republican. "It is a tricky balance."
Mr. Biden's original plan also called for raising taxes on
corporations, including raising the corporate rate to 28% from 21%
and tightening the net on U.S. companies' foreign earnings, to
cover the cost of the infrastructure plan over 15 years.
Republicans have rejected raising corporate taxes, instead favoring
raising money from user fees.
While Mr. Biden floated other tax ideas in negotiations with
Republicans, including a minimum corporate tax rate, to raise
revenue for the plan, he has adamantly opposed raising user fees
such as the gas tax.
Some Democrats are supportive of raising the gas tax, though.
Sen Tom Carper (D., Del.), the chairman of the Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee, tweeted on Thursday that Congress
should index the gas tax to inflation.
"Things worth having are worth paying for," he wrote in a tweet.
"As I've said for the last two Congresses, at a minimum we should
index the gas tax to inflation to help fund investments in
Democrats have the power to approve an infrastructure package
without meeting the typical 60-vote threshold in the Senate if they
use a budgetary tool called reconciliation. Senate Majority Leader
Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said this week that the party was
preparing to move forward with reconciliation as it also explores
the bipartisan talks. Mr. Schumer said lawmakers could ultimately
approve two packages -- one that is bipartisan and one that relies
only on Democratic votes.
Democrats are also seeking to advance Mr. Biden's separate $1.8
trillion plan focused on child care and antipoverty efforts.
Write to Andrew Duehren at email@example.com and Kristina
Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 10, 2021 19:16 ET (23:16 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.