President Joe Biden is highly likely to endorse the bipartisan infrastructure framework that was clinched on Wednesday night, according to two people with knowledge of the talks.
The Senate’s nascent infrastructure deal faces a crucial test Thursday as its negotiators prepare to meet with the president. That meeting comes after senators and administration officials reached a breakthrough Wednesday evening that raises the prospects of a tentative agreement on nearly $1 trillion in infrastructure spending.
Under the framework, the bipartisan package, led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would include $559 billion in new spending on roads, bridges and other traditional infrastructure projects. The White House and the bipartisan group have spent this past week negotiating on how to pay for the package. Senate Republicans have said they will not touch the corporate tax rate, while Biden and Senate Democrats have rejected proposals to index the gas tax and enact fees for electric vehicles.
Importantly, it’s not clear yet whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will endorse the deal. Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi also met with administration officials Wednesday evening. Schumer has emphasized that the infrastructure plan is currently on two tracks: the first is bipartisan, while the second is set to include policies that have no chance of getting Republican support.
While people close to the group were optimistic about Biden’s backing, the thumbs-up he’s expected to give won’t necessarily ensure the potential agreement can get through Congress. There’s been very little transparency about what’s in the proposal; the bipartisan group has not released details and still must draft a massive piece of legislation.
And even if a firmer deal is reached after Thursday’s meeting with Biden, both leaders will need to sell it to their members.
Progressives have insisted that they will sign onto the bipartisan package only with the guarantee of a second infrastructure package, which would include priorities like child care. However, with the Senate evenly split, every Senate Democrat will need to sign on to the second bill.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is taking part in the bipartisan negotiations, has yet to say where he’ll support a package passed with only Democratic support using the protections of the budget process to sidestep a GOP filibuster.