A bipartisan Senate group announced late Thursday that they reached an agreement on a major infrastructure package.
The 10-member group, featuring five Republicans and five Democrats, “has worked in good faith and reached a bipartisan agreement on a realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies,” the group said in a joint statement.
The group described their plan as fully paid for with no tax hikes, though members said they would index the gas tax to inflation.
The cost of the agreement has not been disclosed. The White House and Senate leaders would still need to sign off on the plan, which reportedly comes in at under $1 trillion. The White House did not immediately return an inquiry.
“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,” the Senate group said.
The 10 members are Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).
President Joe Biden kicked off infrastructure negotiations earlier this year when he announced a $2.3 trillion package that would be funded in part from a corporate tax rate hike.
Republicans cried foul because the hike would partially roll back a key provision of their 2017 tax reform bill, and because Biden’s package included pieces deemed extraneous like some $500 billion for elder and disabled care.
Negotiations led to a $1.7 trillion counteroffer from the White House and a $978 billion plan from Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters in Washington that he was told verbally about the agreement, but that he was still moving forward with a plan to ram through an infrastructure package using budget reconciliation, a measure that would lower the vote threshold in the 50–50 Senate from 60 to 50.
Schumer and other Democrats have expressed interest in avoiding the need for any Republican votes in the upper chamber but Manchin has said he would not support reconciliation, leaving them short of at least one required Democrat vote.
Appearing on Fox News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said before the deal was announced that Republicans “haven’t given up hope that we’ll be able to reach a deal on something really important for the country that we really need to accomplish, and that is a major infrastructure bill.”
Tester on NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier Thursday said the group was “very, very close” to a deal. “There are still some outliers out there that haven’t been agreed upon,” he said, expressing hope that an agreement would be reached before the end of the week.
And Collins had said there was a “tentative agreement on a framework” but that there was a long way to go, emphasizing that the compromise had not yet received White House backing or full support from Schumer or McConnell.
In a statement to news outlets, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Biden appreciates the Senators’ work to advance critical investments we need to create good jobs, prepare for our clean energy future, and compete in the global economy.”
“Questions need to be addressed, particularly around the details of both policy and pay fors, among other matters,” he added. The White House plans to negotiate with the bipartisan group in the coming days.
The amount of the deal was not disclosed. Some reports indicated it was under $1 trillion, even though Warner on MSNBC this week said he would not be part of negotiations unless it a framework was “substantially more than what Capito discussions were around.”
As for the tax hike issue, Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill that the bipartisan package includes indexing the gas tax to inflation, which means the tax would increase.
“It’s already at what, 17 cents a gallon? If it’s indexed to inflation, you can do the calculation. If inflation is 2 percent a year, it’s going to rise by 2 percent a year,” he said.
Portman claimed that provision wouldn’t amount to a tax increase.
“Pleased to report our group of 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats have worked in good faith and reached a bipartisan agreement on a compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure without any tax hikes,” he wrote in a tweet.
Murkowski had told reporters that the Senate group was narrowing “the areas that we have chosen to focus on,” adding: “We’ve defined and refined the scope, which I think has been critically important, because it’s hard to talk about what you’re paying for unless you’ve agreed on the scope.”