September 19, 2021

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Key senators say infrastructure deal is reached on ‘major issues’ – NBC News

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WASHINGTON — Key senators negotiating a bipartisan infrastructure bill announced Wednesday they have reached a deal with Democrats and the White House, possibly setting up a vote later in the day.

“We have reached agreement on the major issues. We still have legislative language to finalize,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters after the five GOP negotiators met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Portman said Democrats accepted their latest offer to resolve the issue of highway and transit funding, which was one of the last major obstacles.

“This bill is paid for,” he said.

The Senate could begin the multistep process to approve the package later in the evening, he said, adding that they “expect to have the language completed by then.”

It will require 60 votes to move forward, meaning at least 10 Republican senators must back the procedural motion.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who served as the lead negotiator for the Democrats, said lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on the bill but should allow the rest of the Senate to begin reading it soon.

“We do expect to move forward this evening, we’re very excited to have a deal,” Sinema, of Arizona, said, adding that lawmakers have “most of the text done. so we’ll be releasing it today, and then we’ll update it as we get those last pieces finalized.”

President Joe Biden told reporters Wednesday, when asked about the infrastructure proposal, “I feel confident about it.”

The deal includes $550 billion in new spending on infrastructure projects, according to two aides familiar with the negotiations. That’s down from the $579 billion negotiators previously targeted. The spending will amount to $1 trillion when factoring in other, expected funding for transportation projects.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she was “delighted that we’ve been able to come together as a bipartisan group.”

She said she has been working with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to finalize the broadband policies.

“There is $65 billion in broadband deployment and affordability programs. Our goal is to ensure that there is far greater access to high-speed internet services,” Collins said.

Before the Republican senators spoke, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer notified senators that the chamber could hold a procedural vote “as early as tonight.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., appeared to take a dig at former President Donald Trump’s recent statement calling on Republicans to reject the deal and not

“I am amazed that there’s some who oppose this just because they think that if you ever get anything done, somehow it’s a sign of weakness,” Cassidy told reporters. “I have no clue what they mean. My state has been impacted more than any other state by flooding and natural disasters these past two years.”

He said the package includes $110 billion for roads.

The other two Republicans in the negotiating group were Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah.

“From a policy perspective, this is something that the country needs,” Murkowski told reporters. “This is also important to demonstrate that Republicans and Democrats can come together over really hard stuff to negotiate in good faith — and to broker an agreement that is not going to work just for Republicans, or for Democrats, it’s going to work for the country.”

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