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Senators envision $ 579 billion in new infrastructure spending and $ 1 billion plan

WASHINGTON (AP) – A bipartisan group of senators are considering an infrastructure deal with $ 579 billion in new spending as part of a $ 1 trillion program. It could be deployed as early as Thursday as negotiators try to strike a deal on President Joe Biden’s top priority, people briefed on the plan said.

All 10 Senators gathered behind closed doors, encouraged by Biden to continue working on the effort after walking away from a Republican-only proposal this week unable to resolve differences. Senators are informing their colleagues privately and have warned that changes could still be made.

“We have a piece of paper with each line and a total,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters on Capitol Hill. He declined to provide further details. “Can be adjusted and changed? Sure.”

The president and Congress struggled to reach agreement on his ideas for investing in infrastructure, stuck on the scope of all road, highway and other projects and how to pay for them.

At this size, the new five-year package would be more than the previous Republican effort of $ 330 billion in new spending in a $ 928 billion package, but still below the $ 1.7 trillion over eight years that Biden is looking. It appears the group is facing the same issues that Biden and top Republican negotiator Senator Shelley Moore Capito faced in agreeing on how to pay.

Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., A chief negotiator, declined to disclose the final tab. When asked if the new spending amounted to $ 600 billion, he replied that “the president said that was his target. So I don’t think anyone felt like they had to go over their goal. “

Another member of the group, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Said they were “pretty close” to an amount in the lead, but still debating how to pay it. One option is to include potential income from uncollected income taxes, he said.

“We still have to talk,” Tester said.

A Republican outside the group, Senator Mike Braun of Indiana, said he was told the package would provide nearly $ 1 trillion, including $ 579 billion in new spending compared to the reference for transport projects.

Braun also said part of it would be paid for with untapped COVID-19 relief funds, which was a failure for the White House.

“They came up with similar things to what I think Capito was working on, but I understand it would be a little more money,” he said.

Biden instructed senators to continue working as he left on his first trip abroad after talks broke down this week with Capito and GOP senators.

The president is looking for a sizable investment not only in roads, highways and bridges, but also in broadband, electric vehicle charging stations and other aspects of what he sees as the new economy, all of it. funded by an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

Republicans prefer to focus more narrowly on repairing existing transportation systems, with smaller investments elsewhere. They oppose any tax increase to pay for new spending.

With the Senate tightly divided, 50-50, and most laws requiring 60 votes to pass an obstruction, Biden is seeking a bipartisan deal to secure passage. At the same time, he’s also asking Democrats who control the House and Senate to prepare to pass parts of the package themselves, under special budget rules that allow approval with 51 votes in the Senate.

In the equally divided Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the deciding vote.

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