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Dems Prep to Go Aloeneon Infrastructure06/16 06:02

   Patience running thin, Democratic leaders are laying the groundwork for a 
go-it-alone approach on President Joe Biden's big jobs and families 
infrastructure plans even as the White House continues negotiating with 
Republicans on a much more scaled-back $1 trillion proposal.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Patience running thin, Democratic leaders are laying the 
groundwork for a go-it-alone approach on President Joe Biden's big jobs and 
families infrastructure plans even as the White House continues negotiating 
with Republicans on a much more scaled-back $1 trillion proposal.

   A top White House adviser assured House Democrats during a closed-door 
session Tuesday that there would be a fresh assessment by next week on where 
talks stand with the Republicans. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer 
announced he is moving ahead, huddling privately Wednesday with the Senate 
Budget Committee to prepare for July votes on a majority-rules approach as wary 
Democrats prepare to lift Biden's $1.7 billion American Jobs Plan and $1.8 
billion American Families Plan to passage.

   Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are trying to calm worries from 
anxious rank-and-file Democrats that Biden is leaving too much on the table in 
talks with Republicans. Restless lawmakers want assurances that if they concede 
to a scaled-back bill with Republicans, it won't be the last word and the 
president's push for investments in climate change strategies, child care 
centers and other Democratic priorities will proceed -- with or without GOP 
votes.

   "We'll see where we're going to go after a week or 10 days (of) more 
dialogue and negotiation," White House counselor Steve Ricchetti said Tuesday, 
according to a partial transcript of the private caucus meeting obtained by The 
Associated Press.

   The updated timeline comes as Biden's top legislative priority is teetering 
in Congress while he is overseas. The president and the Democratic leaders of 
the House and Senate have been engaged in a two-track strategy -- reaching for 
a bipartisan deal with Republicans but also setting the stage for a potential 
majority-rules strategy in case talks fail.

   Over the past week, a bipartisan group of 10 senators has narrowed in on a 
nearly $1 trillion deal of mainly road, highway and other traditional 
infrastructure projects, but without the family-related investments in child 
care centers and other facilities that Ricchetti insisted Tuesday remains a top 
priority for the administration. Republicans reject those investments as costly 
and unnecessary.

   "Just ask a working mom if child care is part of her family's 
infrastructure," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. "Ask a family with an aging 
parent who needs help to live at home safely if home care is infrastructure. We 
understand that it is."

   On Tuesday, the members of the bipartisan group of senators presented the 
emerging proposal to their colleagues at closed-door Senate lunches and were 
met with mixed reviews.

   The effort by the bipartisan group, five Democrats and five Republicans, has 
come far in meeting Biden's initial ideas, but the senators and the president 
remain wide apart over how to pay for the plan.

   Republicans have rejected the president's proposal to raise the corporate 
tax rate, from 21% to 28%, to pay for infrastructure investments, or to 
increase taxes on wealthy Americans..

   Instead, under the bipartisan proposal, the projects would be funded by 
increasing the gas tax paid at the pump by linking it to inflation, tapping 
unspent COVID-19 relief funds and trying to recoup unpaid income taxes.

   "People were optimistic we could actually get something done," said Sen. 
John Barrasso, R-Wyo., emerging from the lunch meeting.

   But the prospect of raising the gas tax is highly unpopular with some 
Democratic lawmakers, echoing Biden's refusal to raise taxes on people earning 
less than $400,000 a year.

   Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chair of the Senate Finance Committee, described it 
as "another hit on working people."

   "To me, their idea that they're going to raise taxes on working people while 
letting multinational companies and the most wealthy Americans off the hook is 
a nonstarter," Wyden said. "I mean, where is the fairness in that?"

   Biden is also facing skepticism from Democrats who want to see robust 
investments in strategies to fight climate change -- for electric vehicle 
charging stations, money to bolster communities' response to harsh weather 
conditions and funds for public transit that many rural state Republicans 
oppose and that have been dramatically reduced in the bipartisan plan.

   "There has to be a guarantee, an absolute unbreakable guarantee, that 
climate is going to be at the center of any infrastructure deal that we cut," 
said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

   "We cannot let our planet down," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. "This has to 
be part of the deal."

   The White House plans to give the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations 
another week to 10 days before assessing the next steps, but insisted there was 
no deadline to this latest round of talks.

   Deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said that Ricchetti conveyed to the 
lawmakers that "we are certainly going to know where things stand on 
infrastructure talks generally in the next week to 10 days, and that we can 
then take stock overall. But he did not set a deadline or cutoff."

   Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., the House Budget Committee chair, said the plan 
is, if bipartisan talks falter, to move "full steam ahead" on considering a 
package as soon as July under special reconciliation rules that would enable 
majority passage without the need for Republican votes.

   With the Senate narrowly split, 50-50, Democrats are skeptical at least 10 
Republicans will join to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance most 
legislation over a filibuster. Democrats are pushing to use budget 
reconciliation rules that would allow passage on a simple majority vote of 51 
votes in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to serve as a 
tiebreaker.

   The package being prepared by the House Budget Committee would include both 
the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. These are Biden's 
ambitious proposals to build not just roads and highways, but also the 
so-called human infrastructure of child care, veterans care and education 
facilities.

   Schumer will convene a meeting Wednesday of the Democratic senators on the 
Budget Committee, urging them to rally around a "Unity Budget," according to a 
senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the 
private session.

   Schumer will instruct the 11 Democratic senators on the panel to ensure that 
key climate and care-giving components are included in the framework -- 
including a plan to reduce U.S. electricity emissions by 80% by 2030.

   "The White House made it clear to us that we should be prepared to proceed 
on two tracks," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic 
Caucus. "We're prepared to do what is necessary to get the American Jobs Plan 
over the finish line."

 
 
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