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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.

Go deeper

Sep 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The debt ceiling stare down

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congress is fast approaching its deadline to raise the debt ceiling or risk defaulting on the nation's debt, and, as of now, there's no serious plan to stave off what many members are calling the worst-case scenario.

Why it matters: The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt. If Congress doesn't take "extraordinary measures" to finance the government, it would "likely cause irreparable damage to the U.S. economy and global financial markets," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned last week.

Sep 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats plot debt-limit options

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer leave the U.S. Capitol this week. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are working on a short-term funding bill — which needs to pass before Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown — that includes a debt-limit increase.

Why it matters: The country will default on its debt in October for the first time in U.S. history if Congress doesn't increase the federal debt limit. Republicans and Democrats have entered a standoff — daring the other side to blink.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

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