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U.S. Senate faces 'hell of a fight' amid doubts over infrastructure investments

EconomyJul 12, 2021 07:21PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to news reporters following the announcement of a bipartisan deal on infrastructure, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate returned on Monday to one of its most ambitious agendas in years, with Democratic President Joe Biden seeking trillions of dollars in infrastructure spending and Republicans promising "a hell of a fight" against tax hikes to pay for it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer opened the Senate following a two-week July Fourth recess, saying progress was being made on both a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan https://www.reuters.com/world/us/whats-us-senates-12-trillion-infrastructure-plan-2021-06-24 and the first step toward another measure that would pass with only Democratic votes.

But given the 50-50 split in the Senate, it was uncertain whether the Democratic leader could fulfill his goal of passing both measures through the chamber by sometime in August.

"If and when we succeed, the benefits will reverberate across the country for generations to come," Schumer said.

Work continued on the bipartisan part of the package, which Biden has touted to voters, but the top Republican on the plan, Senator Rob Portman, told reporters he did not know when detailed negotiations would be completed.

Roy Blunt, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, said: "That would be a pretty amazing thing" if a bill winning the support of all Democrats could also capture the 10 Republicans necessary to push it to passage.

Last week, Schumer's Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, promised a "hell of a fight" over the expected next phase of the process - a partisan, Democratic initiative - while leaving open the possibility of his support for the emerging bipartisan bill.

Negotiators were still discussing ways to finance the latter measure's $1.2 trillion price tag https://www.reuters.com/world/us/democrats-set-24-hour-target-bipartisan-us-infrastructure-deal-2021-06-23, according to lawmakers and congressional aides.

Adding to the complexity, Congress could get embroiled in a potentially divisive debate over raising the statutory limit on U.S. borrowing authority, which expires at the end of July.

While the Treasury Department is expected to be able to manage for several weeks beyond the July 31 deadline, global financial markets will become increasingly jittery about a potential U.S. default on its debt the longer the matter is unresolved.

Democrats control both chambers of Congress by razor-thin margins and can afford to lose only a few votes in the House of Representatives and none in the Senate if they are to succeed.

They view the overall infrastructure package as potentially the most important legislation to push through before next year's elections, which will determine control of Congress for the second half of Biden's four-year term.

The bipartisan deal would pay for rebuilding roads, bridges and other traditional infrastructure projects and bring broadband internet service to more rural areas.

It got a boost last week from the "Problem Solvers Caucus," a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

McConnell said there was "a decent chance" the bipartisan bill could gain traction, but warned the spending must somehow be financed without adding to the national debt.

'NOT THE RIGHT THING'

Speaking at public events in his home state of Kentucky last week, McConnell saved his grim assessments for tax hikes in the other infrastructure legislation Democrats are expected to produce in addition to the bipartisan bill.

"This is going to be a hell of a fight. ... This is not the right thing to do for the country," McConnell warned as he attacked Biden's plans for possible tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to help finance the cost of some infrastructure investments.

Corporate lobbyists, in concert with Republicans, already were laying plans to thwart the initiative https://reut.rs/3AMBeKw, arguing that tax increases would hurt a U.S. economy emerging from the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One measure, to be hammered out before the start of the August recess, would simply provide the technical framework for ramming through the Senate - without Republican support - a second, bigger infrastructure measure.

That Democrats-only plan would require a maneuver called "reconciliation https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senates-reconciliation-process-its-not-way-it-sounds-2021-06-16" that skirts Senate rules requiring 60 votes to pass most legislation.

The large package is set to be the final major piece of Biden's first-year legislative aspirations: a partisan "human infrastructure" bill in the fall to invest huge sums to confront climate change, while expanding education opportunities across the United States and home healthcare for the elderly and others.

McConnell has attacked those initiatives and is hoping to generate opposition from some moderate Democrats.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, a leading liberal, is looking for up to $6 trillion in new investments, while other, more moderate Democrats on his panel want less.

Sanders left a meeting with Biden on Monday telling reporters he would push for "the strongest possible legislation."

U.S. Senate faces 'hell of a fight' amid doubts over infrastructure investments
 

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Comments (9)
Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood Jul 12, 2021 10:44PM ET
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This is just aid to fascist blue states. Nobody with any amount of honor can support this!
Dan Hodel
Dan Hodel Jul 12, 2021 10:26PM ET
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I still want to see Trump’s plan. Just hold off for two weeks…
Options Trader
Options Trader Jul 12, 2021 8:37PM ET
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I just watched a movie 20 years old, with a president actor. Guess what they were discussing..infrastructure. The best possible outcome for the American people would be to start from scratch with a new government. They are completely worthless and corrupt.
HD HD
HD HD Jul 12, 2021 7:43PM ET
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legalize cannabis. tax $ solved.
Connecticut Yankee
A_Jaundiced_Eye Jul 12, 2021 6:47PM ET
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Problem: "Negotiators were still discussing ways to finance the latter measure's $1.2 trillion price tag." Solution: High-speed printing presses at the Fed
Connecticut Yankee
A_Jaundiced_Eye Jul 12, 2021 6:44PM ET
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"If and when we succeed, the benefits will reverberate across the country for generations to come," If you replace "benefits" with "costs", I finally found something Charles-call-me-Chuck and I agree on !!
Martin Lewis
Martin Lewis Jul 12, 2021 6:25PM ET
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Nobody fears Biden, he is a laughingstock. Globalists love having their puppet in the White House. All of US's adversaries like China and Russia openly mock Biden and the US under Biden. Putin even challenged Biden to a debate, or even answering questions in front of the press with Biden. but Biden's people would not let him since he cannot go for 5 minutes speaking without being distracted and sniffing a child.
David David
David9 Jul 12, 2021 4:52PM ET
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They need to hire China to build the infrastructures, otherwise it will take decades and cost will skyrocket to neverland....
Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood Jul 12, 2021 4:52PM ET
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lmao - yeah, so it can crumble in 5 years like everything China builds.. yeah.. no thanks.. you can keep your concrete covered cardboard creations to yourself…
William Smith
William Smith Jul 12, 2021 6:19AM ET
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Biden's infrastructure plan!?!?!? LMAO. I don't know whose plan it is but it's not Biden's. He can't even read it correctly from the teleprompter.
 
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