Senators cobbling together bipartisan U.S. infrastructure proposal

Senators cobbling together bipartisan U.S. infrastructure proposal

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is flanked by Senators’ Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as he talks to reporters following the Senate Democrats weekly policy lunch at the U.S. Capitol in Was

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday was meeting with a bipartisan group of senators developing an infrastructure proposal, a day after the bipartisan group broadened its base of support to a fifth of the Senate.

Twenty-one of the 100 senators, including 11 Republicans, nine Democrats and one independent who caucuses with Democrats are in the bipartisan group, which is building out a framework that sources said would cost $1.2 trillion over eight years.

A draft proposal being circulated among members of the group includes $579 billion in new spending, to be paid for in part by unspent COVID-19 relief funds, public-private partnerships and an infrastructure financing authority.

The biggest chunk of the money, $110 billion, would be spent on roads, bridges and major projects, according to the draft. Another $66 billion would be spent on passenger and freight rail and $48.5 billion on public transit, according to the draft proposal.

The bipartisan proposal falls short of President Joe Biden’s current $1.7 trillion proposal on infrastructure investment, one of the Democratic president’s top legislative priorities. His plan would include massive spending to fight climate change and provide more care for children and the elderly.

The bipartisan plan would be funded by a variety of revenue-raisers. Some of them have been controversial, including indexing the gas tax to inflation. Sources familiar with the negotiations stressed that the document was a draft put together by one member for consideration, and there have been no final decisions.

The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, also met with members of the bipartisan group on Wednesday and said Thursday he wanted to study the revenue-raising proposals more closely.

“If the Republicans want to join us in an effort to have a bipartisan approach to infrastructure, I think we need to have an honest accounting of how we are going to pay for that,” Durbin told reporters.

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