New issues with infrastructure talks because the strain rises – WISH-TV | Indianapolis Information | Indiana climate
WASHINGTON (AP) – Senators ran into new problems on Monday as they battled to secure a bipartisan infrastructure deal, with pressure mounting on all sides to show progress on President Joe Biden’s top priority.
Serious roadblocks remain on the way to a make-or-break week. There is a dispute over how much money should go into public transport. But spending on freeways, water projects, broadband, and other areas also remains unresolved, as does the question of whether unspent COVID-19 aids should be used to finance infrastructure.
The Democrats and the White House sent a new “global” offer to resolve the remaining issues, but it was rejected early Monday by Republicans as “disheartening” – a setback for a hoped-for afternoon deal.
The week ahead is crucial after more than a month of negotiations since Biden and the bipartisan group first celebrated the contours of the bipartisan deal in June at the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said he would approve the nearly $ 1 trillion bipartisan package and $ 3.5 trillion draft budget before the Senate enters the August break is over.
The White House wants a bipartisan deal for this first phase, but as the talks drag on, the Democrats, who have little control over the House and Senate, could leave the Republicans behind and try to do it on their own. If it fails, it could be included in the broader package of Biden’s priorities that the Democrats later want to approve.
The bipartisan package includes approximately $ 600 billion in new spending on public works projects. Democrats want more money to be used to promote public transport, which includes subways, light rail vehicles and buses, in line with Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal and push to combat climate change.
The Democrats and the White House had sent Republicans a “global” offer on the remaining issues late Sunday, according to a Democratic adviser close to the talks and granted anonymity to discuss them.
But the Republicans rejected the ideas, and according to a GOP adviser, anonymity was also granted to discuss the private conversations. The advisor said the new proposal tries to revisit problems that have already been resolved.
Republicans believe the White House needs to show more flexibility if the talks are to be successful, the adviser said.
The bipartisan group initially appeared to be heading towards an agreement on more money for transit. But Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, the top Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that oversees public transportation, raised questions. He partially cited earlier federal COVID-19 aid funds that had already been allocated to local public transport.
“Nobody is talking about cutting the transit,” Toomey said on Sunday. “The question is, how many tens of billions of dollars will be enough on top of the huge increase they have already received? And there is a little difference of opinion. “
Typically, the Federal Highway Trust Fund spending followed the traditional formula of 80% for highways and 20% for mass transit. Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Tom Carper of Delaware say they will reject the deal if transit finance falls below it.
In the latest offer, the Democrats would have accepted the Republican proposal on spending on highways, provided that Republicans approve the Democrats’ position on public transport, the Democratic adviser said.
“Funding the transit is obviously extremely important to the president – the ‘Amtrak president,’ as we might call him,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. “But we believe that the members can do the job and solve these problems pretty quickly.”
The senators also appeared to have resolved issues related to funding public water infrastructure. The group had reached an agreement to add a deal on the $ 15 billion funding already approved in a Senate water bill for lead pipe contamination.
Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, made another proposal that Democrats deemed impractical, the Democratic adviser said.
Romney’s office dismissed this claim as “ridiculously false”.
Referring to the White House’s own website, Romney’s office said the deal on water was always expected to come with $ 55 billion in new spending – not $ 70 billion as Democrats now want.
The final package would require the support of 60 senators in the evenly divided 50-50 Senate to overcome a filibuster – that is, at least 10 Republicans along with each Democratic member. Last week’s test vote failed due to party lines.
There are other remaining questions about how to pay for it. For example, details on broadband financing and the use of the remaining COVID relief funds that were previously decided by the Congress are still being discussed.
Democrats are looking for a compromise to pay for the package after rejecting an increase in gasoline tax for drivers at the pump and Republicans busting a plan to empower the IRS to follow up tax battles.
Three rounds, totaling nearly $ 70 billion in federal COVID-19 emergency aid, including $ 30.5 billion that Biden signed in March, brought the transportation companies to the brink of financial meltdown as the drivers Avoid crowded places in subway cars and buses. This federal aid is intended to cover operating deficits from falling passenger income and costly COVID-19 cleaning and security protocols until at least 2022.
But democrats and public transport advocates see expanded public transport as key to reducing traffic congestion, tackling climate change, and curbing pollution from cars.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., The chairman of the House Committee on Transport and Infrastructure, recently sent a letter with 30 Democrats on the panel warning that the Senate’s proposal was inadequate and that any deal was dated House of Representatives approved infrastructure worth $ 715 billion should include bill that includes more money for rail and transit.
“The historic share of public transportation from the Highway Trust Fund is 20%,” said Paul Skoutelas, president of the American Public Transportation Association, on Sunday. “This is the absolutely acceptable minimum level to maintain our country’s public transport systems. It is imperative that we make solid, forward-looking investments to modernize and expand public transportation that will support our economic recovery from the COVID pandemic and get Americans back to work. “
Portman appeared on ABC’s This Week, Toomey appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, and Warner appeared on Fox News Sunday.