Last week, Senate Republicans in the bipartisan infrastructure gang insisted that by Monday, they would have enough done on the proposal to be able to vote on moving forward with the bill. They only filibustered an attempt by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to move their agreement forward because they would have something concrete this week to vote on.
Just a few days later, we learned that they were still disputing essentially every element of a hard infrastructure proposal: transit funding, water system funding, broadband funding, and where that funding was going to come from. While COVID-19 is resurging with the delta variant, they want to take COVID-19 relief funding that hasn’t yet been spent to pay for more roads to carry more fossil-fueled vehicles. As of Monday, Republicans had rejected a “global” offer from President Biden and Democrats addressing all those issues. They rejected it out of hand.
A Democratic source involved in the negotiations told CNN that Republicans are “goalpost moving.” That source used funding for water systems as an example: There had been an apparent agreement on $55 billion in new spending for water systems, with an additional $15 billion to specifically address replacing poisonous lead pipes delivering drinking water. Sen. Mitt Romney, that bipartisan hero, proposed something “completely unworkable,” the Democratic source told CNN, blowing up another part of the agreement.
But Republicans on the committee are still insisting that it’s in reach. Just give them more time. They always need just a bit more time. They are always “about 90% of the way there,” as Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said this weekend. Portman, Romney said, is now negotiating with White House adviser Steve Richetti on the remaining issues. It’s not clear whether a Democrat, i.e., a representative of the majority party, is also involved in that.
In the background, Republicans not in the thick of it on the bipartisan committee are trashing the whole idea. That would include Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who told CNN’s Jake Tapper that to him it is “very, very important” that the government doesn’t spend money on rebuilding infrastructure and combatting climate change. “Now we’re talking about another $600 billion on top of the ordinary spending,” he said, pointing specifically to this bipartisan effort.
“This is completely out of hand. There are people who think this is Monopoly money, but it’s not, Jake. And so I’m concerned. I think the way we should pay for this increase in infrastructure spending is by re-purposing money we already approved, but hasn’t yet gone out the door.” That would be the COVID-19 relief money.
It’s not all Republicans driving this bipartisan car, potentially. President Biden is meeting Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Tuesday to “discuss progress on the bipartisan framework and finishing it up soon.” A presidential nudge on just getting this damned thing done is entirely appropriate right now. Let’s hope it takes.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.