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5 Republicans Who Worked on Bipartisan Infrastructure Now Won’t Commit to It

Several GOP senators now say they’re wary of the bipartisan infrastructure proposal, leaving it in limbo.

Sen. Mitt Romney talks to reporters as he leaves a bipartisan meeting on infrastructure in the basement of the U.S. Capitol building on June 8, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Several Senate Republicans who initially said they’d support the watered down, bipartisan version of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill are now saying that they aren’t committed to voting to advance the bill, leaving the future of the proposal in the lurch.

Five out of 11 Republicans who previously said they’d support the proposal told CNN that they’re now wary of supporting it — despite the fact that Biden agreed to cut the bill down to almost an eighth of its original size and has given up a large portion of the proposals that had originally excited some progressives and Democrats.

Senators like Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) said they are concerned that Democrats plan to tie the bipartisan infrastructure bill to a larger reconciliation bill that is slated to contain a wide variety of Democratic priorities and can be passed with a simple majority in the Senate. Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) have said that they won’t raise the infrastructure bill without the reconciliation package.

Because of the filibuster, only six Republican votes in the Senate wouldn’t be enough to pass the bipartisan legislation, leaving it in limbo for now. The group of centrist senators, led on the Republican side by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), are expected to meet again Tuesday to iron out details.

“It doesn’t seem the right kind of negotiating tactic to say, ‘Yeah, I’ll support a bipartisan plan, only as long as I get a vote on everything else I want,’” Moran told CNN, explaining his wariness over supporting the plan.

“What Speaker Pelosi does I can’t control,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), “but they may not get anything if they start putting in conditions.”

But Moran and Rounds seem to ignore the fact that negotiations on the Republican side have been in bad faith — more so than how they’re perceiving the Democrats to be doing. The GOP has made it clear that they are dead set on saying no, unilaterally, to nearly everything Democrats propose. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) himself has declared bipartisanship on big spending like the stimulus package “over” — even though he has bragged about its benefits to the people in his state, despite voting against it.

Republicans haven’t exactly been amenable to reaching across the aisle when they’ve been in power, either. When they passed Donald Trump’s tax cuts that largely benefited the wealthy in 2017, for instance, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), then a ranking member of the Senate Finance committee, pointed out that “there was zero outreach from Republicans on this issue.” Wyden said there was “Not one moment when Republicans actually shared even a piece of paper or a document about ideas that might bring both sides together.”

In fact, even the centrist Republicans involved in the negotiations with Biden are still refusing to capitulate to any form of bipartisanship on the tax issue. It was Republicans who under Trump slashed the corporate tax rate from an already relatively low 35 percent to a mere 21 percent, helping many large corporations pay zero dollars in corporate taxes in recent years. But when Biden proposed a very modest raise in the corporate tax rate to 28 percent to pay for the infrastructure bill, Republicans immediately shot it down.

In fact, even the commonsense bipartisan proposal to provide the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with more resources to crack down on tax cheats, especially wealthy ones, in order to raise revenue for the infrastructure bill seems to be in contention now. Several of the senators like Rounds and Moran told CNN that they are unsure about the proposal, leaving it in question.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a battle brewing on the Democratic side over how large the reconciliation bill will be. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has proposed a $6 trillion figure, arguing that a large spending bill is crucial to address pressing issues like the climate crisis and various labor and economic problems that the country is facing.

“For decades, we have ignored the threat of climate change, a crumbling infrastructure, a disastrous child care system, a massive need for affordable housing, that we are the only major country not to guarantee paid medical leave,” Sanders tweeted on Monday. “Our budget must meet the needs of this moment.”

Key negotiators in Washington have said in recent days that they expect the reconciliation package to be only around $3.5 trillion, which Sanders says would be unacceptable. “I introduced a proposal for $6 trillion,” the senator said in a press conference on Monday. “So I am going to fight to make that proposal as robust as it can be, and I think, quite frankly, a strong majority of the members of the Democratic caucus want to go as big as we possibly can.”

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