In interviews Thursday, Democratic senators said they expected all 50 members of their caucus to sign off on the final product, with assurances that their $ 3.5 trillion social spending proposal will include their major priorities. The bipartisan group has yet to influence several Democrats angry with water funding, but the party appears content to enter the home stretch of the infrastructure drama – and leave Republicans divided over whether to back it.
“There’s a lot going on that I’m unhappy with. I think these are mistakes, ”said Cardin (D-Md.). “But I will support the package. I think it is extremely important that we put in place the bipartite package. “
Even Democratic senators skeptical of GOP cooperation said they hoped a bipartisan agreement on physical infrastructure would materialize, as Biden has thrown the weight of the White House behind him and is already traveling the country to promote the framework. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who previously canceled the bipartisan talks, said she was “optimistic” these days and was “ready to support him because Joe Biden supports him.”
“We are knocking on an open door because leadership is for him and the president is too,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Who criticized the pace and scope of negotiations with Republicans. “The stars are pretty well aligned as long as the Republicans let go of their obstruction. They seem to be looking for every excuse to derail this effort. “
Biden can spare no more than a handful of votes from the 50-member Democratic caucus to pass the bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion physical infrastructure package, if a deal is struck. While 11 Senate Republicans wrote to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday telling them they would vote to move forward next week, most GOP conference members are waiting for legislation and a score. of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office before making their minds.
According to a GOP senator, even some Republicans in the bipartisan group of 22 working on the package could eventually run away.
Senate negotiators say they are on the verge of reaching a bipartisan deal, despite the failed vote on Wednesday. The most controversial sticking point seems to be the levels of funding for public transport. But the group is finalizing the broadband arrangements and how to use unspent coronavirus relief money as a funding mechanism, according to staff familiar with the talks.
Republicans have suggested Democrats are divided and may not be able to provide enough votes for the bipartisan deal with the separate $ 3.5 trillion proposal still unfinished. But Schumer calculated that moderates in his caucus will not agree to the social spending plan without the bipartisan effort.
“What I’m hearing is that the Democrats could lose 10 to 15 of their progressives,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (RS.D.). “I hope they will be able to deliver more votes than that. “
On Thursday afternoon, some Democratic senators said they were concerned about what they were hearing, but there was no sign of a mass rebellion. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said if his water legislation was not “fully funded” he “would have great difficulty” in vote for the bipartite agreement. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) Echoed his concern, but their colleagues find it unlikely that they will end up opposing a bipartisan product that Biden supports.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration understands some lawmakers “want their voices heard” and “have demands they want to make” throughout the “messy process of legislation. “.
“We are engaged with a range of members, including of course Senator Carper, and of course very closely with Senate leadership,” Psaki said, referring to the Delaware senator’s lukewarm support for the bipartisan cadre.
Schumer has yet to indicate when he will bring up another vote on the bipartisan package, but senators on both sides of the aisle expect it to take place next week. And Schumer reiterated Thursday that he plans to pass the bipartisan bill before the Senate leaves for the August recess.
Meanwhile, the White House released a presentation on Thursday summarizing the Democrats’ social spending proposals, in a bid to counter the GOP’s attacks on rising inflation. It’s a sign the White House has heard growls from Democratic lawmakers wanting a cohesive argument as they present both the bipartisan deal and reconciliation proposals to voters and work to get them through.
“We wanted to give people an organized, cohesive theory of the case of how these pieces fit together to tell a cohesive story,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said on a call. with reporters on Thursday. “And really empower them. “
If there is a contingent of Democrats threatening the bill, it is likely in the House, where several members have complained that they have been excluded from bipartisan discussions dominated by the Senate. But entering a pivotal week in which the Senate could finally deliver a verdict on three months of cross-talks, Democrats say they are confident their members will be there at the end of it.
“A lot of this bill is made up of things that have already been passed by committees. It’s not exactly revolutionary stuff, ”said Warren (D-Mass.). “If that makes some people happier that part of the infrastructure bill is bipartisan so we can move forward, fine. “