Congress appears to be moving closer to a possible compromise on a major infrastructure package, one that would be significantly less expensive than what President Biden's American Jobs Plan.
Thursday afternoon, a bipartisan group of ten U.S. Senators announced they had struck a deal on infrastructure worth $1.2 trillion over eight years. That's half the cost of the proposal originally rolled out by the President.
Perhaps the question now is: which other Senators will support it?
"That’s a question that has yet to be answered," said Sen. Jon Tester, (D) MT, to reporters Thursday morning, "It truly is. I think there's going to be challenges."
Sen. Tester is part of the group of five Democrats and five Republicans intent on finding middle ground on an issue that every member claims is non-partisan.
"At the end of the day, we’re going to get there," said an optimistic Sen. James Lankford, (R) OK, in an interview Thursday prior to the deal being announced.
But Sen. Lankford said they’re not going to 'get there' if the only option is President Biden’s massive infrastructure package that he said, clearly, contains much that us not actually infrastructure.
"We just want to build highways, we just want to build water systems, we just want to take care of airports," Lankford stated. "I mean, all the key things that have got to be done."
While the details have yet to be filled in, the bipartisan compromise reportedly trims out climate and long-term home care initiatives that had raised red flags with Republicans and even some moderate Democrats. But scaling it down could cost the group support from the Democrats' progressive wing, members of which are already indicating the bill falls short of what the country needs.
At the same time, with close to $600 billion in new spending, the measure could still be seen as too large by conservative Republicans, especially in light of all the spending on COVID-19 relief in the past 15 months.
"We had to be able to do some of those things," Sen. Lankford acknowledged, "but we’ve got to get back to balance."
It's not fully clear how the compromise proposal would be paid for but raising the gas tax by indexing it to inflation seems to be in the mix. That is unpopular with some, just as President Biden’s plan to pay for his proposal by raising taxes on corporations and the super wealthy is unpopular with others.
"We are not going to do that," insisted Lankford. "We’ve got to figure out how to do the essential things we need to do, but not destroy the economy in the meantime."
The bipartisan group did reportedly brief the president's staff on the proposal before publicizing it, but the administration has yet to weigh into this point, with the President overseas and focused on the G7 summit.