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Liberal Rebellion Could Sink Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

·4-min read

The $974 billion infrastructure proposal offered by a bipartisan group of senators faces growing resistance in Washington, making it more likely that Democrats will go it alone and pass a package without any Republican support.

Several liberal Democratic lawmakers announced this week that they will not support the proposal. On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said he would oppose the bill, in part because of how it is funded.

“I wouldn't vote for it,” Sanders told reporters late Monday. “The bottom line is there are needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs and it has to be paid for in a progressive way given the fact that we have massive income, wealth inequality in America.”

Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined in on Tuesday, saying they opposed the bipartisan proposal and that any infrastructure plan needs to include more substantial investments in green energy.

Markey also said that he would not support the bipartisan proposal even if it were to be followed by a broader bill containing more of what Democrats want. “It’s time for us to go our own way,” he said. “We need to move forward with 50 Democratic votes.”

Democrats should start working on their infrastructure bill right away, Markey added, with the goal of completing them in time for the August recess.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also rejected the bipartisan proposal, criticizing both its lack of certain provisions and its financing. “I can’t support any infrastructure package that does not include child care, clean energy and requiring the rich and powerful to pay a fair share to get this done," she said. “It has to be one deal and not two deals."

On the House side, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said that the Congressional Progressive Caucus won’t support any bill that isn’t attached to a broader piece of legislation that would deliver more of the programs and taxes that they want.

White House allowing some more time: The Biden administration is also running out of patience with the process. After meeting with White House officials Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) said the president’s team “just said they are giving it a week or 10 days and then we move along with reconciliation.”

Republicans have a plan: The objections from progressives add to the numbers problem facing the bipartisan infrastructure plan, as any Democratic defections would mean more Republican votes are needed. But Republicans could still get behind the bipartisan framework — with a strategic purpose.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the rest of the GOP leadership may back the bipartisan plan in the hope that it makes it harder for President Biden to pass the rest of his agenda, Politico’s Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett report.

The idea is to give Democratic moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) a bill they can support on infrastructure, and then rely on them to oppose the bigger spending plans the White House wants to pass via reconciliation on things like child care and green energy.

“The stars are kind of lining up for an infrastructure bill," Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said. "And if you do do something bipartisan on that, then I think doing something partisan on reconciliation — in some ways, with certain Democrats — it gets a lot harder."

But Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressed doubts about signing onto any agreement that Republicans might support while citing the “skepticism that Mitch McConnell’s earned” in his dealings with Democratic leadership.

“McConnell has repeatedly said he wants Biden to fail. And you know the Republican conference doesn’t do anything that McConnell doesn’t bless,” Brown told Politico Tuesday. “There’s no genuineness about paying for it … we’re not going to do a gas tax, and they’re not going to ask people that got tax cuts four years ago to ante up anything.”

The bottom line: The chances of a bipartisan deal aren’t done yet, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he will meet Wednesday with all 11 Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee to start the process for a budget resolution that he hopes to pass in July, setting the stage for Democrats to pursue a larger infrastructure package on their own.

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