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'We Have A Deal': Biden Announces A Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement With Senators

Updated June 24, 2021 at 3:10 PM ET

President Biden on Thursday announced a bipartisan infrastructure agreement after meeting with a group of senators from both parties, though he cautioned it wouldn't be enacted without a separate proposal moving along with just Democratic support.

"We have a deal," Biden said, appearing with the group of Republican and Democratic senators outside of the White House.

The package focuses on traditional infrastructure investment items like roads, bridges and rail, along with broadband internet and water systems.

The bipartisan framework is the result of weeks of negotiations and is seen as an early step in a broader negotiation over Biden's calls for more than $2 trillion in new spending. This Senate-driven bill is meant to address traditional infrastructure, leaving Democrats to figure out how to pass other key elements of Biden's plan.

"Today is a huge day for one half of my economic agenda," Biden said in Thursday remarks inside the White House, noting that Democrats plan to use the Senate reconciliation process to advance measures like universal preschool and two years of community college. "I'm getting to work with Congress right away on the other half of my agenda as well," he said, noting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., were committed to making sure the infrastructure package and the reconciliation process moved "in tandem."

Here's what's in the package

The full topline spending number for the bipartisan effort, according to the White House, is $1.2 trillion over eight years, with nearly $600 billion in new spending.

It is in effect a slimmed-down version of Biden's original infrastructure and jobs plan, which had a price tag of more than $2 trillion.

In the agreed-upon framework, the new spending includes $109 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for rail, $49 billion for public transit, $55 billion for water infrastructure and $65 billion for broadband.

The White House claims it includes the largest federal investment in public transit in U.S. history, the largest federal investment in passenger rail since Amtrak began and the largest single investment in bridges since the interstate highway system. The White House says the plan will eliminate lead water pipes and upgrade the power grid while also creating millions of American jobs.

It also includes some elements focused on climate prioritized by Biden, including $15 billion for building a network of electric vehicle chargers and electrifying school and transit buses, plus money for upgrading infrastructure for the impact of climate change.

A key sticking point has been how to pay for the measure, with Republicans opposed to undoing any of their 2017 tax cuts, and Biden against raising the gas tax.

In the end it would be paid for with a mix of increased tax enforcement, unused unemployment insurance, unused coronavirus relief funds, state and local funds for broadband, sales from the strategic petroleum reserve and several other measures.

Biden, in Thursday afternoon remarks, said that the package would be funded "without raising a cent" on taxpayers making less than $400,000 a year. He said it would not call for an increased gas tax nor fees on electric vehicles.

"Neither side got everything they want in this deal," Biden said. "That's what it means to compromise."

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the top Republican negotiator in the group said he was "pleased" the two parties were able to reach an agreement on the package.

The bipartisan group of senators includes some 20 members.

"It's something that traditionally has been very bipartisan," Portman said. "And I'm very pleased to see today that we are able to come together on a core infrastructure package ... without new taxes."

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the lead Democratic negotiator, said the package would amount to "a historic investment in our country's infrastructure," but noted that the senators still have to go back to Capitol Hill and sell the deal to their colleagues.

The bipartisan plan does not address investments in child care, tax credits for families or other programs that Democrats say are necessary to ensure all people are able to participate in the economy.

Pelosi insists two infrastructure packages be linked

Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that the House will not move forward on any bipartisan agreement until the Senate passes a separate bill to address those other priorities.

"We aren't going down the path unless we all go down the path together," she said.

Pelosi said she supports the concept of a bipartisan bill on the elements of infrastructure that have widespread support. But she also called on Senate Democrats to use special budget rules, known as reconciliation, to pass the partisan elements of Biden's plan without the threat of a filibuster in the Senate.

"There won't be an infrastructure bill unless we have a reconciliation bill, plain and simple," Pelosi said. "If there is no bipartisan bill, then we'll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill. But I am hopeful that we will have a bipartisan bill."

A two-track effort

Democrats have been preparing for a two-track approach to infrastructure for weeks.

Senate Democrats have begun the budget process that would allow such a measure to move through the chamber.

"Discussions about infrastructure are progressing along two tracks," Schumer said on the chamber floor Wednesday. "The first is bipartisan, and the second incorporates elements of the president's American Jobs and Families Plan. The second track is something we must support even if it doesn't get any Republican support."

In addition to the infrastructure plan, Biden outlined a separate proposal of near similar size on education, child care and paid leave.

"For several weeks, the trains have been chugging down both tracks quite well," Schumer added. "When the Senate returns after the July 4th state work period, it will be time to take the next step forward."

Schumer and Pelosi met with White House aides Wednesday evening to discuss the latest on infrastructure.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.