‘We have a deal,’ Biden says after meeting with Senate infrastructure group

‘We have a deal,’ Biden says after meeting with Senate infrastructure group

President Joe Biden declared Thursday that the White House has struck an infrastructure deal with a bipartisan group of senators after discussing the massive plan to improve the nation’s roads, bridges and broadband earlier in the day.

“To answer the direct question: We have a deal,” Biden said at the White House.

The president, flanked by senators including Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Mark Warner, D-Va., added that he would honor the latest policy framework that focuses on “hard” infrastructure.

“They have my word. I’ll stick with what we’ve proposed, and they’ve given me their word as well,” he said. “None of us got all that we wanted. I didn’t get all that I wanted. But this reminds me of the days we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress.”

The lawmakers have worked for weeks to craft an infrastructure package that could get through Congress with support from both parties. Deciding how to pay for the plan has posed the biggest challenge.

The framework will include $579 billion in new spending, the White House said.

  • $312 billion will go to transportation, with $109 billion invested in roads, bridges and other major projects, $66 billion in passenger and freight rail and $49 billion in public transit
  • Only $15 billion will go toward electric vehicle infrastructure and electric buses and transit, a fraction of what Biden first proposed
  • The plan would put $266 billion into nontransportation infrastructure
  • It includes $73 billion for power, $65 billion for broadband and $55 billion for water

“The investments we’ll be making as a result of this deal are long overdue,” Biden said after announcing the agreement, saying it would create jobs and help to close the “digital divide” by expanding internet connection.

The group proposed various methods to pay for the plan. They do not include an increased gas tax or electric vehicle user fee, which Democrats opposed, or an increase to the corporate tax rate, which Republicans resisted.

The proposal calls to increase IRS enforcement to ensure wealthy people pay the taxes they owe. It also would redirect unused state and local coronavirus relief funds to infrastructure. The framework proposes private-public partnerships and bonds, among a bevy of other potential funding mechanisms.

Twenty-one senators — 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats — have backed the infrastructure framework. They will likely need to win support from Democratic leaders and win over the vast majority of the caucus to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the bill in the Democratic-held Senate.

CNBC Politics

Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:

Some Senate Democrats criticized the smaller bipartisan deal as they seek spending to expand child care and fight climate change. However, at least one skeptical Democrat signaled he would back the plan if it was paired with a larger bill focused on child and elder care, education, health care and climate change.

The current deal is “way too small. Paltry, pathetic,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said minutes before Biden’s announcement. “It has to be combined with a second much more robust, adequate package, to be deserving of a vote, and I am very hopeful that it will be followed by another package.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., stressed that “we have to have the whole thing, not just not just cleave off a little piece of it.”

Biden acknowledged Thursday that to approve his plans to expand child care and education, he will have to “fight like heck” to “get every Democrat and do it through reconciliation, if it gets done.” He also said he doubted members of his party would vote against the bipartisan plan because of what they consider its shortcomings.

“My party is divided. But my party’s also rational,” he said. “If they can’t get every single thing they want, but all that they have in the bill before them is good, are they going to vote ‘no’? I don’t think so.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., met with White House officials on Wednesday night. While they have signaled they will support the bipartisan framework, they aim to pass it in concert with a larger bill that addresses more of their priorities without Republican votes.

The Senate has started to work on the budget resolution that would allow Democrats to use the reconciliation process to pass the plan. Democrats will have to try to convince skeptical progressives to support the more narrow bipartisan infrastructure deal, and centrists to back a sprawling plan to expand social programs and fight climate change.

“We won’t get enough votes to pass either unless we have enough votes to pass both,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday. “When the Senate returns in July, it will be time to take the next step and hold the first votes on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor of the Senate. Senators should also be prepared to consider a budget resolution that will clear the way for the budget reconciliation bill as soon as possible.”

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks following a bipartisan meeting with U.S. senators about the proposed framework for the infrastructure bill, at the White House in Washington, June 24, 2021.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Pelosi said that the House would not take up either piece of legislation until both get through the Senate, where Democrats face a more challenging path than in the House. The party cannot lose a single vote on a reconciliation bill in the evenly split chamber.

“There ain’t going to be an infrastructure bill unless we have a reconciliation bill passed by the United States Senate,” she said during a press briefing Thursday morning. “House and Senate Democrats are united in that we — in the House — are not bringing [it] to the floor unless both bills pass in the Senate.”

Both of the congressional leaders agreed with Biden’s call not to raise taxes on anyone who makes under $400,000 per year, according to a White House readout of the meeting. The Biden administration has said it will not back an increase to the gas tax or an electric vehicle user fee as part of the bipartisan framework because it would break the president’s pledge.

Republicans have fought the president’s proposal to hike the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%. The GOP slashed the rate from 35% in 2017.

— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.