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Highway construction on Interstate 285 in Sandy Springs, Georgia. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate negotiators are finalizing how to pay for the $579 billion bipartisan infrastructure package, tapping everything from unused 2020 COVID-relief funds to targeting the Medicare rebate rule, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Driving the news: The core group of negotiators plans to present a finished version of their deal to the broader G22 group on Sunday evening.

  • There are lingering disagreements about how much to spend on public transit, but if the expanded bipartisan group approves the emerging deal, passage on the Senate floor could happen later this week.
  • “We’re about 90% of the way there,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), said on ABC New's "This Week."

Why it matters: By settling on actual dollar amounts, including $70 billion leftover from President Trump's coronavirus relief packages, the negotiators are closer to convincing members of both parties that pay-fors will offset proposed new spending — making it more likely a finished bill passes the Senate.

  • It's also a double-edged sword: By getting specific, they risk antagonizing industries and interest groups now realizing they're being singled out to fund billions in new roads, bridges and broadband.
  • “We are, and have, agreed jointly on about roughly $70 billion of funds that were not spent that will be redeployed to help pay for this infrastructure package,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told Martha MacCallum on "Fox News Sunday."
  • “A very, very important category for me is how all this is going to get paid for,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told CNN.
  • “There are people who think this is monopoly money, but it’s not,” said Toomey. He is not a member of the bipartisan G22.

Go deeper: In addition to $70 billion in leftover COVID-19 relief money, there’s roughly $50 billion to be gained by repealing proposed changes to how Medicare pays drugmakers.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had also targeted that rebate money for his separate $3.5-trillion package.
  • In addition, the bipartisan group will target unused unemployment insurance and proceeds from Strategic Petroleum Reserve sales, and the same of unused IP addresses and a telecommunications spectrum auction.

The intrigue: Some senators are awaiting an official “score” from the Congressional Budget Office, which may — or may not — help the bipartisan group bolster its case that new spending is paid.

  • A generous CBO score will help lawmakers sell the package to their colleagues.
  • An unfavorable CBO score won't necessarily kill the bill if the bigger group of G22 senators all agree the pay-fors will cover the new spending.

Go deeper

Sep 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.

Sep 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats release full text of Biden's $3.5T reconciliation package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday unveiled the full text of President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending package.

Why it matters: Democrats are racing to finish negotiations and get the bill on the floor as soon as possible so Pelosi can fulfill her promises to both House centrists and progressives about the timing and sequencing of passing the party's dual infrastructure packages.

Newsom signs $15 billion package to fight climate change

Gov. Gavin Newsom Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $15 billion climate package on Thursday as California wildfires threaten more sequoias at Sequoia National Park.

Why it matters: The package is the largest such investment in California history as drought conditions have worsened across the state and led to numerous wildfires. More than 1.9 million acres have burned across the state this year, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, including over 220,000 in the Caldor fire last month.