Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Senator Rob Portman, the two main negotiators in the House of Congress, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday that the deal had been reached.
“We expect to go ahead tonight. We are delighted to have an agreement, ”said Sinema. “We have completed most of the text, so we will publish it and then update it as these final elements are finalized. “
Details on transit and broadband were still being finalized, but lawmakers said the legislation would be completed soon. A test vote on the measure could potentially take place on Wednesday evening, they also said.
“This agreement signals to the world that our democracy can work, deliver and do great things,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, welcoming the news.
“This bipartisan agreement is the largest investment in public transit in American history and the largest investment in rail since Amtrak was created 50 years ago,” he said. , referring to the American passenger rail network.
Senators from a bipartisan group of 10 have gathered privately for weeks and in recent days lawmakers and the White House have worked to save the bipartisan deal, a key part of Biden’s agenda.
Responding to a concern about funding among Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Portman said the package was “more than paid for.” Portman said McConnell “has always encouraged our efforts.”
The procedural vote would simply limit debate on whether the Senate should start considering the bill, estimated at around $ 1.2 trillion.
Democrats, who have limited control over the House of Representatives and the Senate, face a deadline to act on what is said to be one of the most important pieces of legislation in years.
Prospects for full adoption of the deal by Congress remain unclear, as there are pockets of opposition from both sides as well.
Some conservative Republicans are said to be concerned about the political benefits Biden and Democrats could gain from passing an infrastructure bill as they aim to build on their weak majorities in Congress in the mid-election. term of office next year.
And some progressive Democrats believe that compromise with Republicans not only limits progressive spending priorities, but would not ensure Republicans’ cooperation in future spending bills.
In a private meeting of House Democrats on Tuesday, Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called the bipartisan Senate measure complete “crap,” according to two. Democrats who attended the session and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The result will set the stage for the next debate on Biden’s much more ambitious $ 3.5 trillion spending program, a strictly partisan pursuit of large-scale programs and services, including child care, tax breaks and health care that touches almost every corner of American life, and that Republicans strongly oppose it.
What’s in the deal?
The bill will propose $ 550 billion in new spending on highways, bridges, transit, broadband, water systems and other public works projects, a Republican source told Reuters news agency, against $ 579 billion in a framework negotiators outlined several weeks ago.
The deal includes $ 110 billion for roads, $ 65 billion to expand broadband access and $ 47 billion for environmental resilience, lawmakers said.
It is still unclear how the bipartisan package would be paid for after Democrats rejected a plan to provide funds by increasing the gasoline tax that drivers pay at the pump and Republicans rushed to a plan to to stimulate the IRS to prosecute tax evaders.
Funding could come from the reallocation of COVID-19 relief aid, the cancellation of a Trump-era drug discount, and other flows. It is possible that the final deal will have political problems if it is not considered fully paid when the Congressional Budget Office assesses the details.
Meanwhile, Democrats are preparing a larger $ 3.5 trillion package that is being considered under budget rules that allow passage with 51 senators in the divided Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break the tie. It would be paid by raising the corporate tax rate and the tax rate for Americans earning over $ 400,000 a year.
A recent Associated Press-NORC poll found that eight in ten Americans support increased spending on infrastructure.