The White House is giving bipartisan infrastructure negotiations until the end of June even as progressive opposition swells

US Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, speaks with reporters about potential efforts to raise the minimum wage at the US Capitol in Washington.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

  • The White House is giving bipartisan economic talks until the end of June for a deal to pan out.
  • Biden could potentially shift course and embrace a Democratic-only plan after that.
  • An emerging bipartisan framework is struggling to draw substantial Democratic support.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

White House officials are indicating to congressional Democrats that they’re giving bipartisan infrastructure negotiations until the end of June before potentially shoving Republicans aside and moving ahead with a Democratic-only plan.

It’s a fresh sign that the Biden administration’s patience is starting to wear thin at the slow pace of economic talks with the GOP. More than two months of back-and-forth discussions haven’t yielded a major breakthrough.

“They’re giving it a week or 10 days more and that’s about it,” House Budget chair John Yarmuth told reporters on Tuesday. “Then we move along with with reconciliation – for everything.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reconciliation, the legislative tactic that only requires a simple majority to pass certain bills, is increasingly favored by progressive Democrats, who want to combine President Joe Biden’s two-part plan into a massive $4 trillion bill and muscle it through both the House and Senate with only Democratic votes.

Many on the left fear Biden’s social spending proposals – such as paid family leave and universal pre-K – would not draw strong support from Democratic centrists in the Senate, and derail that part of the plan. But Biden is pursuing a deal and the White House is giving additional time for an agreement to be struck.

A bipartisan group encompassing 10 lawmakers from both parties is still drafting a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure plan, though key details remain unclear. It includes Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine.

The Democratic side comprises Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has come out in opposition to the emerging framework, saying its sources of revenue were not progressive enough. The group is eyeing indexing the gas tax to inflation, which may increase gas prices for average people, and repurposing stimulus funds from states.

“I wouldn’t vote for it,” Sanders told reporters on Monday. “The bottom line is there are a lot of needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs, and it has to be paid for in a progressive way, given the fact that we have massive income and wealth inequality in America.”

Other Democrats such as Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon are coming out against a plan that doesn’t contain aggressive measures to combat climate change.

“Put me down as skeptical of these theories that somehow you get everything you want, and somehow the priorities I have might be addressed down the road,” Wyden said Wednesday. Every lost Democratic vote means an additional Republican would be needed for the plan to clear the chamber – with a bare minimum of 10 GOP votes

Others are reserving judgment until more details emerge. “I got to look at it first,” Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told Insider.

“I want to see it, how are the Republicans gonna pay for it?” Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, chair of the Banking Committee, told Insider. “I’ll see it, I don’t know yet.”

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