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The group of senators working on a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework have reached a deal, they announced Wednesday.
“As of late last night — and really early this morning — we now have an agreement on the major issues,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the deal’s chief GOP negotiator, said after meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to inform him of the final details.
“We are prepared to move forward,” said Portman, who spent Tuesday evening with White House counselor Steve Ricchetti holed up at the Capitol ironing out the kinks.
Portman, who admitted that he didn’t know “exactly what time a cloture vote might occur,” said he was excited to “have a healthy debate here in the chamber.”
While some details remain to be finalized, Portman said the group had reached “an agreement on the major issues.”
As for a timeline, he said he expected a vote “tonight sometime,” adding that he “expect[ed] to have the language completed by then.”
The Ohio lawmaker, who will retire at the end of his term in 2022, revealed that the group was able to reach this stage of progress after Democrats accepted Republicans’ latest offer on highway and public transit funding.
Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), one of the lead Democratic negotiators with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), said she spoke Wednesday with President Biden, who was “very excited” to have a deal.
“We do expect to move forward this evening, we’re very excited to have a deal,” she added, noting that the group already has “most of the text done, so we’ll be releasing it today, and then we’ll update it as we get those last pieces finalized.”
Aside from public transportation funds, a major sticking point for both parties was how the bill would be paid for.
“There is a CBO official score that covers much of the bill,” Portman said. “This bill is paid for.”
“We are still finalizing the details, but we have reached agreement on the major issues,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the GOP negotiating team, told reporters after their McConnell meeting. “I am delighted that we’ve been able to come together as a bipartisan group.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also confirmed the news Wednesday, telling lawmakers to be prepared for a vote that evening.
“Senators continue to make good progress on both tracks of legislation,” said the top-ranking Senate Democrat, who brought the framework up for a vote last Wednesday, which was shut down.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a negotiator on the GOP side, urged caution before assuming the deal was completely done.
“That doesn’t mean every ‘t’ is crossed, every ‘i’ dotted, but on the major issues, we are there.”
The bipartisan package includes about $600 billion in new spending on highways, bridges, transit, broadband, water systems and other public works projects.
The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, has a tie-breaking vote. Still, 51 votes are not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster.
The legislative filibuster is the Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.
In this Senate, Democrats need 10 Republicans to move any major legislation forward, though they can bypass the filibuster through budget reconciliation on certain bills.
Reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass spending for critical projects, but the process cannot be used to change or create laws.
President Biden split his infrastructure package, a centerpiece of his post-COVID agenda, into two for Congress to pass.
The first, the “American Jobs Plan,” focused on infrastructure, while the second, the “American Families Plan,” is aimed at funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.
Republicans took issue with the second package, which they argue stretches the definition of infrastructure.
Biden announced the $1.2 trillion deal on hard infrastructure spending with Portman and Sinema earlier this month, valued at a little more than half of the original $2.3 trillion proposal.
For her part, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has thrown cold water on the idea of the House passing the compromise package if the Senate does not take up the “Families Plan” legislation, which would only pass through reconciliation.
Asked about the matter Wednesday after the Senate deal was struck, the top-ranking House Democrat stood by her ultimatum.
“No. The point is we have to see it. Have you seen it?” she told reporters when asked if she could commit to approving the Senate plan without changes.
“We are rooting for it. We’re hoping for the best. That’s good news just as we came in … that they thought they were even closer. We’ve heard that before.”
With Post wires
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