WASHINGTON – The White House on Wednesday announced it reached a deal with the Senate on a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that has been in the works for weeks and which would represent the most expensive transportation bill in U.S. history.
A vote to move the legislation forward could come as early as Wednesday evening.
“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things. As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday in a statement released by the White House.
The White House said the deal does not include a raise in the 18.4-cent per gallon federal gas tax or a new fee on electric vehicles, proposals that had once been considered to pay for the package.
But the White House was otherwise vague on how to pay for the measure, saying it would be financed “through a combination of redirecting unspent emergency relief funds, targeted corporate user fees, strengthening tax enforcement when it comes to crypto currencies, and other bipartisan measures.”
In addition, the White House said some of the bill would be paid for through “the revenue generated from higher economic growth as a result of the investments.”
The compromise clears the way for a procedural vote as early as Wednesday evening on a key piece of Biden’s agenda to modernize not just roads and railways but broadband and waterways.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that senators should be prepared to take up the bill “as early as tonight.”
Senators confirmed the deal but were guarded about whether the compromise has enough votes to pass.
“We have a deal … We’re finishing up some language,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., one of a small group of senators negotiating the bill that would be the single largest measure Congress has considered to improve America’s roads, bridges and railways.
Text of the legislation has not been released.
Some senators said they haven’t decided yet whether to support it. Asked if everyone in the group of 21 had committed to voting “yes,” on the measure, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., responded: “I think everyone’s working well together.”
But Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., excitedly told reporters he thinks it’s done.
“I say there’s an agreement and we’re voting.”
Sinema told reporters early Wednesday afternoon that negotiators are working on a couple of small matters involving broadband and transit funding provisions “but we do expect to move forward … We’re very excited to have a deal.”
Portman and Sinema are among the 21 centrist senators – 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats – who have been trying to reach a compromise since Biden first unveiled his American Jobs Plan in April. But their scope has been around traditional transportation infrastructure, not Biden’s more ambitious proposals to address poverty, climate and economic injustice.
Senate Republicans last week blocked the start of formal debate on bipartisan infrastructure legislation because the bill text and cost weren’t available at he time. This time, GOP senators said enough details about the deal had been agreed to get the ball rolling.
Even if it passes the Senate, the infrastructure bill still faces hurdles in the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday she needs to see the text before it will get her endorsement, and she reiterated she won’t bring it to a vote unless the Senate also passes a resolution paving the way for a much broader, $3.5 trillion package of infrastructure spending that would include housing, health care and climate change improvements.
That larger bill, unlikely to get a single GOP vote, would have to pass through a budget process known as “reconciliation” which would allow Democrats to approve it without having to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.