Senate lawmakers are discussing an attempt to create a bipartisan infrastructure bill, covering a proposal to split the bill into two parts.
But heavy doubt, as well as big partisan diversity in how much to spend, lives in the way of an agreement.
In a sign that the two parties live entirely at odds over the legislation, not a single Democrat appeared at a press conference on infrastructure Republicans held on Thursday, despite hidden talks among a group of lawmakers in both parties.
Republicans held the press conference to protest about the size and scope of President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, which GOP senators slammed for applying only a fraction of spending to fixing the nation’s deteriorating roads, bridges, and waterways.
“Americans want safe roads,” Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said. “They don't want traffic jams. That's why roads and bridges are what people think about when they talk about infrastructure. But that's not what the president is talking about.”
Biden’s program includes climate change initiatives, plans to strengthen labor unions, and money to create “home and community-based care,” with higher wages for caregiver workers.
The measure spends $174 billion to support the expansion of electric vehicles and billions more to retrofit homes to a greener standard.
“The $2 trillion package that the Biden administration is pushing is really a liberal wish list,” Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, said. “It is grouping things together for Big Labor and providing them with big perks, as well as elements of the Green New Deal.”
A small group of bipartisan lawmakers is considering a project to break up the measure to pass a vote on legislation that addresses only traditional infrastructure projects.
A measure like that stands a much better possibility of winning bipartisan support, senators think.
Democrats could then take up the other provisions in a second bill and pass it using a budgetary tactic that would allow it to pass with only 51 votes and no GOP support.
Sens. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat and a top Biden adviser, and Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican, are hovering over an infrastructure package with a price tag ranging from $600 billion to $800 billion.
“It's a strong approach that strikes me as a reasonable path forward that allows us to accomplish both a strong bipartisan infrastructure package and the rest of the total agenda that President Biden has laid out,” Coons said Thursday.
A narrow infrastructure bill would likely draw GOP support, but lawmakers in both parties are wary of breaking up the measure.