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Senate Democrats worried about bipartisan infrastructure talks

Washington – Biparty group of senators work to craft agreement on infrastructure legislation, after President Biden negotiations completed with a team of Republican senators on Tuesday. But some Democrats have raised concerns over any deal that may be reached by this bipartisan group of moderates, fearing it will fail to address some of the key provisions included in Mr Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal.

“I think it was made clear to these negotiators that we are rooting them to, but there is no guarantee that you can get 50 Democratic votes for the package they produce,” Democratic Senator Chris said Thursday. Murphy to reporters on Capitol Hill, saying he was concerned that climate-related arrangements and some transit improvements could be ruled out.

Any final infrastructure legislation would require 60 votes to advance in the Senate, and Democrats have a narrow 50-seat majority, which means they need 10 Republicans to back the bill. The bipartisan group is trying to come to an agreement that will allow enough Republicans to reach that 60-vote threshold, instead of trying to push a bill through budget reconciliation, a long and complicated process that would allow legislation to pass. to be approved without any Republican votes.

But Murphy stressed that negotiators also cannot afford to lose Democratic support if they are to win the necessary 60 votes.

“I don’t know if there is a scenario where you can lose 10 Democrats and get 60 votes in the Senate, so this package will ultimately have to have the approval of every Democrat,” Murphy said, adding that he believed that ” there were no very high expectations “in the Democratic caucus of what the group would be able to produce.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Democrats were proceeding on “two tracks”: trying to strike a bipartisan deal and preparing to use the reconciliation process.

“Both are moving forward,” Schumer said.

Senate Democrats worried about bipartisan infrastructure talks
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Several Democrats have expressed concerns about dropping climate provisions in any possible deal.

“From my perspective, no climate, no deal,” said Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico told reporters he would be prepared to address climate-related infrastructure in a second bill, but it needs to be addressed.

“At the end of the day, in this process, whether it’s two bills or just one, I don’t care, but if the climate isn’t really dealt with robustly, I think we will have failed, ”said Heinrich. .

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also expressed concern that negotiators removed “humane” infrastructure measures from the proposal, such as extending home care to the elderly and disabled.

“I truly believe that we currently have a time when we need a bold response, which in effect recognizes the severe decline in our economic strength and stability, and the decline of all aspects of infrastructure – not just our infrastructure. hard traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges and sewers and high speed rail and rural broadband and computing – all essential, but we saw during the pandemic that the softer side of human infrastructure was lacking really, ”Gillibrand told reporters Thursday.

Gillibrand noted that millions of women lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic because they had to stay home as primary caregivers to elderly parents or children whose schools were closed. She blamed the loss on the lack of paid national leave and “protected and funded” child care.

“If you don’t intend to rebuild all the infrastructure to get the economy back on its feet, then you really prefer a few workers and you’re not really serious about a full economic recovery,” said Gillibrand. . Mr. Biden’s $ 1.7 trillion US jobs plan is accompanied by a US $ 1.8 trillion plan for families, which addresses some of the “human” infrastructure priorities like child care and health care – but is even less likely to be supported by Republicans as the jobs plan.

Some Democrats have also stressed that if it is possible to reach a deal, it must do so quickly.

“I fear that time is wasted. Even if our Republican colleagues [work in] in good faith, we just don’t have time to delay, ”Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters.

Montana Senator Jon Tester, who is part of the bipartisan negotiations, said it would be “optimal” for a deal to be reached by Thursday.

“Time is running out here, so we will continue to work to try to make a deal,” Tester said.

But Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who heads the bipartisan negotiations, said a deal won’t be reached by Thursday. He added that there was “general agreement” for the first line of the bill, but said “it is not locked and concrete at this point”.

“It depends on having ten people agree. So we wrote something that we would like to publish today, but we have to have ten people agree,” Romney told reporters.

Democrats and Republicans argued over how the proposal should be paid for, even though there appeared to be room for an agreement on indexing the gasoline tax to inflation. Romney said the group was discussing the option, and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told reporters that indexing the gasoline tax to inflation “has to finally happen.”


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