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Biden Extols Infrastructure Deal       06/25 06:08

   President Joe Biden has announced a hard-earned bipartisan agreement on a 
pared-down infrastructure plan that would make a start on his top legislative 
priority and validate his efforts to reach across the political aisle.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden has announced a hard-earned 
bipartisan agreement on a pared-down infrastructure plan that would make a 
start on his top legislative priority and validate his efforts to reach across 
the political aisle.

   But he openly acknowledged Thursday that Democrats will likely have to 
tackle much of the rest on their own.

   The bill's price tag at $973 billion over five years, or $1.2 trillion over 
eight years, is a scaled-back but still significant piece of Biden's broader 
proposals.

   It includes more than a half-trillion dollars in new spending and could open 
the door to the president's more sweeping $4 trillion proposals for child care 
and what the White House calls human infrastructure later on.

   "When we can find common ground, working across party lines, that is what I 
will seek to do," said Biden, who deemed the agreement "a true bipartisan 
effort, breaking the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place."

   The president stressed that "neither side got everything they wanted in this 
deal; that's what it means to compromise," and said that other White House 
priorities would be taken on separately in a congressional budget process known 
as reconciliation, which allows for majority passage without the need for 
Republican votes.

   He insisted that the two items would be done "in tandem" and that he would 
not sign the bipartisan deal without the other, bigger piece. House Speaker 
Nancy Pelosi and progressive members of Congress declared they would hold to 
the same approach.

   "There ain't going to be a bipartisan bill without a reconciliation bill," 
Pelosi said.

   Claiming a major victory five months into his presidency, Biden said, "This 
reminds me of the days when we used to get an awful lot done up in the United 
States Congress." Biden, a former Delaware senator, said that as he put his 
hand on the shoulder of a stoic-looking Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio as 
the president made a surprise appearance with a bipartisan group of senators to 
announce the deal outside the White House.

   But the next steps are not likely to be nearly so smooth.

   Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell complained that Biden was "caving" 
to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's plan to "hold the 
bipartisan agreement hostage" for the president's bigger package of what he 
called "wasteful" spending.

   "That's not the way to show you're serious about getting a bipartisan 
outcome," McConnell said.

   And there is plenty of skepticism on Biden's own left flank. Democratic Sen. 
Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the bipartisan agreement is "way too 
small -- paltry, pathetic. I need a clear, ironclad assurance that there will 
be a really adequate robust package" that will follow.

   Thursday's deal was struck by the bipartisan group led by Portman and 
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, including some of the more independent 
lawmakers in the Senate, some known for bucking their parties.

   "You know there are many who say bipartisanship is dead in Washington," 
Sinema said. "We can use bipartisanship to solve these challenges."

   And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, "It sends an important message to the 
world as well that America can function, can get things done."

   The proposal includes both new and existing spending on long-running 
programs and highlights the struggle lawmakers faced in coming up with ways to 
pay for what have typically been popular ideas.

   The investments include $109 billion on roads and highways and $15 billion 
on electric vehicle infrastructure and transit systems as part of $312 billion 
in transportation spending. There's $65 billion toward broadband and 
expenditures on drinking water systems and $47 billion in resiliency efforts to 
tackle climate change.

   Rather than Biden's proposed corporate tax hike that Republicans oppose or 
the gas tax increase that the president rejected, funds will be tapped from a 
range of sources -- without a full tally yet, according to a White House 
document.

   Money will come from $125 billion in COVID-19 relief funds approved in 2020 
but not yet spent, as well as untapped unemployment insurance funds that 
Democrats have been hesitant to poach. Other revenue is expected by going 
harder after tax cheats by beefing up Internal Revenue Service enforcement that 
Portman said could yield $100 billion.

   The rest is a hodgepodge of asset sales and accounting tools, including 
funds coming from 5G telecommunication spectrum lease sales, strategic 
petroleum reserve and an expectation that the sweeping investment will generate 
economic growth -- what the White House calls the "macroeconomic impact of 
infrastructure investment."

   The senators from both parties stressed that the deal will create jobs for 
the economy and rebuild the nation's standing on the global stage, a belief 
that clearly transcended the partisan interests and created a framework for the 
deal.

   "We're going to keep working together -- we're not finished," Republican 
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said. "But America works, the Senate works."

   Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said it will show the world "we're not 
just, you know, a hot mess here."

   For Biden, the deal was a welcome result. Though for far less than he 
originally sought, Biden had bet his political capital that he could work with 
Republicans toward major legislation.

   Moreover, Biden and his aides believed that they needed a bipartisan deal on 
infrastructure to create a permission structure for more moderate Democrats -- 
including Sinema and Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- to then be willing to go 
for a party-line vote for the rest of the president's agenda.

   The announcement leaves unclear the fate of Biden's promises of massive 
investment to slow climate change, which Biden this spring called "the 
existential crisis of our times."

   Biden's presidential campaign had helped win progressive backing with 
pledges of major spending on electric vehicles, charging stations, and research 
and funding for overhauling the U.S. economy to run on less oil, gas and coal. 
The administration is expected to push for some of that in future legislation.

   Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La, stressed that there are billions of dollars for 
resiliency against extreme weather and the impact of climate change and deemed 
Thursday's deal a "beginning investment."

   Biden has sought $1.7 trillion in his American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 
trillion American Families Plan for child care centers, family tax breaks and 
other investments that Republicans reject as far outside the scope of 
"infrastructure."

   The broad reconciliation bill would likely include tax increases on the 
wealthy, those earning more than $400,000 a year, and hike the corporate rate 
from 21% to 28%, so a tension still exists over funding for some Republicans 
and business groups.

   It's still a long haul to a bill signing at the White House. The Senate 
expects to consider the bipartisan package in July, but Biden's bigger proposal 
is not expected to see final votes until fall.

 
 
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