A group of centrist senators have obtained an advantage over the Upper Chamber’s liberals in the ongoing debate over infrastructure reform, adding almost a dozen supporters to their $974 billion package, The Hill reports.
Twenty-one senators have come out in support of the more modest proposal than the one backed by liberals and the White House, with 11 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one independent who caucuses with Democrats. The Hill notes that left-leaning senators who were calling on Democrats to "cut bait" in the last few days have acknowledged that they must look at the centrist option before moving forward.
The centrist bill removes many of the more far-reaching policies in the package supported by President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party’s progressives, such as the $400 billion proposed for long-term home health care.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., one of the leading figures behind the centrist proposal, noted that the group are almost evenly split among the two parties, saying, "there’s a lot of momentum."
He added, "In terms of Republican supporters, I think we’re way north of the 11 who are public and there are many more."
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., another Democrat supporting the centrist proposal, told MSNBC on Thursday that the parties’ negotiators hope to release a more detailed version by Monday.
"Once we have that package we can send it out to both Democrats and Republicans to see if we can get their support and hopefully we can get a big vote on both sides," he said.
The other supporters include Democrat Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, of Maine. The Republicans backing the bill include Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Todd Young of Indiana.
On the progressive side, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., told the Hill that "we’ll see" on the package’s success, noting that he and other liberals have called for higher taxes on corporations and individuals with high net-worth.
"I think the key to keep our eye is to forget pay-fors as a concept and think more about an honest tax system that isn’t corrupted by big special interests and that is a positive and not just something that pays for something else," he said, adding that progressives also need to see ambitious proposals on climate change if they’re going to support the package.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said that the cost of infrastructure spending will offset itself over the longterm by helping to increase economic activity.
"I just don’t understand why there’s such a fascination with paying for infrastructure," he said. "I think you should be much more focused on paying for ongoing annual programing but infrastructure is the one thing you should be completely willing to finance, especially at these low rates."
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