White House and Senators cement $1.36 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) – The White House and a bipartisan group of senators agreed Wednesday (July 28) on a far-reaching infrastructure bill, and Democrats were pressing to schedule a vote to advance it as soon as Wednesday evening, paving the way for action on a crucial piece of US President Joe Biden’s agenda.

According to a fact sheet released Wednesday afternoon by the White House, the resulting bill would provide about US$550 billion (S$746 billion) in new federal money for roads, bridges, rail, transit, water and other physical infrastructure programs.

Many of its spending provisions are unchanged from the original framework announced last month. But it appeared to pare spending in a few areas, including reducing money for public transit to US$39 billion from US$49 billion and eliminating a US$20 billion “infrastructure bank” meant to catalyze private investment in large projects.

The loss of the infrastructure bank appeared to cut in half the funding for electric vehicle charging stations that administration officials had said was included in the original agreement.

The new agreement significantly changes how the infrastructure spending will be paid for, after Republicans balked at a pillar of the original framework: increased revenue from an IRS crackdown on tax cheats, which was set to supply nearly one-fifth of the funding for the plan.

Instead, negotiators agreed to repurpose more than US$250 billion from previous Covid-19 relief legislation, including US$50 billion from expanded unemployment benefits that have been canceled prematurely this summer by two dozen Republican governors.

The new agreement would save US$50 billion by delaying a Medicare rebate rule passed under former President Donald Trump and raise nearly US$30 billion by applying tax information reporting requirements to cryptocurrency. It also proposes to recoup US$50 billion in fraudulently paid unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

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It remained unclear whether enough Republicans would join the five core negotiators in advancing the measure, although some GOP senators outside the group signaled they would be open to moving forward.

If the compromise holds, Democrats will have to maneuver it through the evenly divided Senate over a Republican filibuster, which will require the support of all 50 Democrats and independents and at least 10 Republicans. That could take at least a week, particularly if Republicans opposed to it opt to slow the process. Should the measure clear the Senate, it will also have to pass the House, where some liberal Democrats have balked at the emerging details.


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