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Biden: Infrastructure Agreement Reached06/24 12:44

   President Joe Biden declared on Thursday that "we have a deal," announcing a 
bipartisan agreement on a $953 billion infrastructure plan that would achieve 
his top legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach across the 
political aisle.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden declared on Thursday that "we have a 
deal," announcing a bipartisan agreement on a $953 billion infrastructure plan 
that would achieve his top legislative priority and validate his efforts to 
reach across the political aisle.

   Biden made a surprise appearance in front of the cameras with members of a 
group of senators, Republicans and Democrats, after an agreement was reached at 
the White House. Details of the deal were scarce to start, but the pared-down 
plan, with $559 billion in new spending, has rare bipartisan backing and could 
open the door to the president's more sweeping $4 trillion proposals later on.

   "This reminds me of the days when we used to get an awful lot done up in the 
United States Congress," said Biden, a former Delaware senator, putting his 
hand on the shoulder of a stoic-looking Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

   The president said not everyone got what they wanted and that other White 
House priorities would be tackled separately in a congressional budget process 
known as reconciliation.

   "We've struck a deal," Biden then tweeted. "A group of senators -- five 
Democrats and five Republicans -- has come together and forged an 
infrastructure agreement that will create millions of American jobs."

   The deal was struck amid months of partisan rancor that has consumed 
Washington, yet Biden has insisted that something could be done despite 
skepticism from many in his own party. Led by Republican Portman of Ohio and 
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the group includes some of the more 
independent lawmakers in the Senate, some known for bucking their parties.

   "You know there are many who say bipartisanship is dead in Washington," said 
Sinema, "We can use bipartisanship to solve these challenges."

   And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, "It sends an important message to the 
world as well that America can function, can get things done."

   The senators have struggled over how to pay for the new spending but left 
for the White House with a sense of confidence that funding issues had been 
addressed. The senators from both parties stressed that the deal will create 
jobs for the economy, a belief that clearly transcended the partisan interests 
and created a framework for the deal.

   "We're going to keep working together--we're not finished," Sen. Mitt Romney 
said. "But America works, the Senate works."

   For Biden, the deal was a welcome result.

   Though for far less than the approximately $2 trillion he originally sought, 
which may raise some ire on the left, Biden had bet his political capital that 
he could work with Republicans and showcase that democracy could still work as 
a counter-example to rising autocracies across the globe.

   Moreover, Biden and his aides believed that they needed a bipartisan deal on 
infrastructure to create a permission structure for more moderate Democrats -- 
including Sinema and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- to then be willing to go 
for a party-line vote for the rest of the president's agenda.

   Biden's top aides had met with senators for back-to-back meetings on Capitol 
Hill and later huddled with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority 
Leader Chuck Schumer.

   The agreement comes with a complex legislative push. Pelosi on Thursday 
warned that it must be paired with the president's bigger goals now being 
prepared by Congress under a process that could push them through the Senate 
with only Democratic votes.

   "This is important," Pelosi said. "There ain't going to be a bipartisan bill 
without a reconciliation bill,"

   The Democratic leader vowed the House would not vote until the Senate had 
dealt with both packages.

   The major hurdle for a bipartisan agreement has been financing. Biden 
demanded no new taxes on anyone making less than $400,000, while Republican 
lawmakers were unwilling to raise taxes beyond such steps as indexing the 
gasoline tax to inflation. But senators departed for the White House Thursday 
with a sense of confidence that funding issues had been addressed.

   One member of the bipartisan group, Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, had met 
privately ahead of the White House meeting with Senate Republican leader Mitch 
McConnell at the Capitol and said afterward that the Kentucky senator "remains 
open-minded and he's listening still."

   The announcement leaves unclear the fate of Biden's promises of massive 
investment to slow climate change, which Biden this spring called "the 
existential crisis of our times."

   Biden's presidential campaign had helped win progressive backing with 
pledges of massive spending on electric vehicles, charging stations, and 
research and funding for overhauling the U.S. economy to run on less oil and 
gas. The administration is expected to push for some of that in future 
legislation.

   But Sen. Cassidy, R-La, stressed that there are billions of dollars for 
resiliency against extreme weather and the impacts of climate change and deemed 
Thursday's deal a "beginning investment."

   Biden has sought $1.7 trillion in his American Jobs Plan, part of nearly $4 
trillion in broad infrastructure spending on roads, bridges and broadband 
internet but also including the so-called care economy of child care centers, 
hospitals and elder care.

   With Republicans opposed to Biden's proposed corporate tax rate increase, 
from 21% to 28%, the group has looked at other ways to raise revenue. Biden 
rejected their idea to allow gas taxes paid at the pump to rise with inflation, 
viewing it as a financial burden on American drivers.

   The broad reconciliation bill would likely include tax increases on the 
wealthy and corporations, so a tension still exists over funding for some 
Republicans and business groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out Thursday 
applauding the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, but Neil Bradley, its 
executive vice president, warned that "some in Congress are trying to torpedo 
the deal" unless they get trillions in additional spending.

   "These are the kind of tactics that have created the mess we are in today, 
and they must be rejected," Bradley said.

   According to a White House readout of the Wednesday meeting with Schumer and 
Pelosi, the leaders talked with acting Budget Director Shalanda Young, National 
Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Domestic Policy Council Director 
Susan Rice, and they discussed the two-track approach -- the smaller bipartisan 
deal now emerging and the more sweeping plan of Democratic priorities.

   Schumer said the leaders "support the concepts" they have heard from the 
bipartisan negotiations.

   The Democratic leaders also insisted on the two-part process ahead, starting 
with initial votes in July to consider the bipartisan deal and to launch the 
lengthy procedure for the Democrats' proposal, now drafted at nearly $6 
trillion.

   The Democrats' bigger proposal would run through the budget reconciliation 
process, which would allow passage of Biden's priorities by majority vote, 
without the need for support from Republicans to overcome the Senate's 60-vote 
threshold. It would require multiple rounds of voting that are likely to extend 
into fall.

   Like Pelosi, Schumer said, "One can't be done without the other."

   That's a signal to both parties of the road ahead. Liberal Democrats have 
been wary of the bipartisan effort because they see it as insufficient and 
worry it will take the place of Biden's bigger plan. Republicans are also 
skeptical of passing a bipartisan bill only to be faced with an even bigger 
Democratic plan.

 
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