Jun 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Republican senators claim “tentative” bipartisan infrastructure deal

Sen. Mitt Romney is seen smiling as he sits in a Senate subway car as he discusses infrastructure negotiations.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) talks about a potential infrastructure deal on Thursday. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Republican senators emerged from a series of closed-door, bipartisan talks Thursday boasting of reaching a "tentative" deal on infrastructure, yet their Democratic counterparts wouldn't go that far.

Why it matters: Members of the s0-called G20 group of 20 senators appear to be the last, best hope for a bipartisan agreement, but the split in where the talks stand highlights the ongoing gulf between the parties on roads, bridges and more.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said early Thursday the group agreed to an overall dollar amount and mechanisms to pay for their package.

  • When Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a fellow G20 member, was informed of the comments, he replied: "News to me."
  • Romney came back and said: "We got a piece of paper with every line and a total, and we got a backside with every line and a total. So, can it be adjusted and changed? Sure. ... We do have individual line items for all the spending and what it adds up to, and pay-fors for all the spending and what it adds up to."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine): "There is a tentative agreement on a framework [between 10 of the senators in the group], but obviously there's a long ways to go."

  • "I would not say that we have the leaders on board ... but I think having 10 senators come together and reach an agreement on a framework is significant."

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told reporters that most members of the group have "basically agreed" on all key aspects of a deal, adding he expects they’ll go public with it by the end of next week.

  • Cassidy wouldn't share the top-line number they're discussing but said it'll be similar to the $1.2 trillion figure released by the Problem Solvers Caucus.
  • He added that President Biden said he wants the bill to include roughly $600 billion in new spending, on top of baseline spending.
  • "So, I don't think anybody felt like they had to exceed his goal," Cassidy said.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), wouldn't share details, but said, "Things are going in the right direction."

Between the lines: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), like the other members of the bipartisan group, said the gulf may be rooted in tactics and semantics.

  • "Everyone has different approaches on how to do these things," he said.
  • "I actually think it's better, until the cake is fully baked, to actually make sure we keep all the ingredients quiet," added Warner, who made millions cutting deals as a telecom executive.

Our thought bubble: While the Republicans in the group of 20 are very positive about the way negotiations are going, we're still skeptical of how successful they'll be.

  • The same level of optimism emerged from Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and the Republicans who spent weeks hashing out a potential deal with Biden — just to see those talks fall apart this week.
  • It's also unclear whether the Republicans in the G20 represent the GOP conference broadly. Capito had the backing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has yet to say whether he'll support the group's efforts.
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