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Biparty infrastructure talks leave Democrats’ $ 3.5 billion bill in motion

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), A member of the Budget Committee, said in an interview Wednesday that he remains optimistic about the bipartisan talks, but added that, “if for some reason the bipartisan version doesn’t work not, then we should be looking at a reconciliation bill that amounts to $ 4.1 trillion.

However, any discussion of such a backup plan is still in its infancy as Democrats wait for another week of bipartisan talks in the Senate. But the fight over whether to raise the price of the party line bill is one of many potential issues that would upset Democrats if these bipartisan Senate negotiations fail – underscoring the fragile peace that Schumer and President Nancy Pelosi will have to maintain throughout the fall. – ground action game.

“Right now we are trying to [see a] silver lining – move on to how we can get there and not assume that we have members who are also going to be problematic, ”said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), former chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Yet Democratic impatience is mounting day by day, especially on the House side. Many progressives there have spent months expressing great skepticism about Biden’s talks with the GOP.

“The whole is really disappointing. I think it slows down the process, “said Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), adding that he hopes the failed Senate vote will lead to a” willingness on the part of a few senators to move forward. And drop the GOP talks. in favor of a Democrat-only bill.

“They eat the hour,” added Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Referring to the two-party Senate group. “And having been burned in 2009 and 10 by Republicans in the Senate over the Affordable Care Act, we are understandably suspicious.”

Schumer set a deadline on Wednesday for the 50 Democratic senators to join the $ 3.5 trillion package that is expected to include an expansion of health insurance and childcare assistance, among others. The majority leader further promised that the Senate would move forward on a budget before the August recess.

But Wednesday’s deadline is likely to slip, in part because the future of the $ 3.5 trillion proposal is closely tied to bipartisan negotiations. It’s frustrating for many House Democrats who were hoping to see the action before the long hiatus began.

House Democrats have, instead, acknowledged that they will likely have to return to Washington in mid-August to vote on the draft budget – and potentially the bipartisan Senate infrastructure deal, if applicable.

While Democrats are a long way from finalizing the specific policies they plan to add to the social spending package, party leaders plan to take the first step in the coming weeks by passing a budget that will determine how much each committee concerned can spend. If the bipartisan deal fails, the party may need to increase its turnover in order to tackle physical infrastructure while leaving its social spending priorities intact.

“I can’t give you an exact timeline, but I think we’re going to have all the Democratic senators on board,” Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Said. “At the end of the day… the $ 600 billion in physical infrastructure you can do in the bipartisan bill, or you can combine it with one bill. One way or another, it’s going to happen.

Sanders is not alone in proposing the idea that roads, bridges and broadband could be incorporated into the social spending bill. Progressive Congressional Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) Said this week she would push for the physical infrastructure plan to be included in the larger spending program if Senate talks fail: ” It has to be incorporated. ”

But this Plan B is already strongly pushed back by moderates, especially in the House, who are eager to sign a $ 3.5 trillion package amid debt concerns and the GOP’s attacks on rising debt. inflation.

“Damn it, no,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) Said when asked about potentially over $ 3.5 trillion in revenue. “We cannot afford to continue spending money that we don’t have.”

Another moderate hub, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.), said “I need to see details, but this number is aggressive.”

Other Democrats argue that putting everything in a $ 4 trillion package, if it is that, shouldn’t matter to moderates.

“I don’t know why they would change their minds about infrastructure spending depending on the vehicle by which it is accomplished,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.). “It wouldn’t be a very logical position in my opinion.”

The White House privately warned Democrats this week that if the bipartisan talks collapse, they may have to make painful decisions related to the budget plan. As moderates are reluctant to exceed $ 3.5 trillion, this could mean that important progressive priorities need to be shifted or downsized to make room for infrastructure funding.

And not all Senate Democrats even signed the $ 3.5 trillion number. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.), who is negotiating the bipartisan package, said on Wednesday that she had not yet decided whether she would support that figure.

“I’m always focused on infrastructure,” Shaheen said. “We will come to an agreement.”

Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Another bipartisan negotiator, said he would support the advancement of the $ 3.5 trillion package, but added, “I will reserve the right to do whatever I want it once I see what’s in the bill and how it’s funded and how it’s distributed.

While Republicans blocked Wednesday’s vote to begin debating the bipartisan infrastructure plan, senators aim to reach a deal by early next week. A group of 11 Senate Republicans sent a letter to Schumer on Wednesday saying they would be ready to move forward on Monday, if they came to a deal and had a non-partisan congressional budget marker score.

Schumer voted against continuing the measure on Wednesday – a move that allows the majority leader to restart the vote at a later date. Senate Democrats said in interviews on Wednesday that they expected Schumer to keep his focus on the bipartisan plan before moving on to the $ 3.5 trillion reconciliation package.

“I don’t know the exact sequence, but the goal right now is to get this bipartisan bill through,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Another member of the budget committee.

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