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Democratic infighting threatens Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal push

Some Democrats want President Biden to abandon bipartisan talks.

President Biden‘s push for a bipartisan infrastructure bill could be thwarted by growing division among Democratic lawmakers, some of whom want to go it alone on a sweeping, multitrillion-dollar spending package.

A coalition of 10 senators reached an agreement last week for $579 billion in new spending that would be funded without any tax hikes, according to a source familiar with the matter. The proposal would spend $974 billion over five years and $1.2 trillion if continued over eight years, the source said. The senators did not release details of the plan, but the source said it would remain focused on core infrastructure projects.

But some Democrats want President Biden to abandon bipartisan talks and pursue his initial $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan unilaterally. That measure, first unveiled at the beginning of April, would make massive investments in the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, as well as transit systems, green energy, veterans’ hospitals and care for disabled and elderly Americans.

“I wouldn’t vote for it,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday of the bipartisan proposal. “The bottom line is there are needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs and it has to be paid for in a progressive way given the fact that we have massive income, wealth inequality in America.” 

Without Sanders on board, the bipartisan infrastructure package would need the support of at least 11 Republicans in order to pass the Senate. 

And the Vermont independent was not the only Democrat to criticize the offer: Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called the measure “very, very paltry and disappointing,” though he indicated he would be willing to hold his nose and vote for the bill if all 50 members of the Democratic caucus agreed to vote for a bigger follow-up that would be passed using reconciliation.  

At least two other Democrats – Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon – have hinted they will oppose any infrastructure bill that does not allocate money toward fighting climate change.