Undaunted by the naysayers on the progressive left and intransigent right, a Senate group of five Republicans and five Democrats has been quietly fashioning infrastructure legislation. They believe their bill is capable of commanding the supermajority (60 votes) required to defeat any opposition filibuster. To be successful, the five Republicans would need to find at least five colleagues to join them, even if all fifty Democrats voted for the plan.
The five Republicans are Mitt Romney (Utah), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Rob Portman (Ohio). The five Democrats are Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona), John Tester (Montana), and Mark Warner (Virginia). Their plan calls for federal infrastructure spending totaling approximately $1.2 trillion, of which approximately $579 billion would be “new money.” See, https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/10/politics/infrastructure-deal-announced-10-senators/index.html
The chances of their proposed legislation becoming law is problematic for at least three reasons:
- Progressive Democrats (like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts) have expressed their desire to move forward with a more generous plan using a reconciliation process that would only require 51 votes. One problem with her approach is that Joe Manchin, one of only 50 Democrats, has already stated that he would oppose any bill that is not bipartisan in nature. Where would Sen. Warren pick up a Republican vote to replace his?
- Conservative Republicans (like Mitch McConnell of Kentucky) have consistently demonstrated that they will do anything to block legislation that would be seen as a victory for a Democratic president. How likely is it, then, that the five Republicans can find others to join them?
- President Biden has established a set of ground rules that the bipartisan legislation might violate. For example, any attempt to pay for the legislation by increasing user fees or taxes payable by individuals earning less than $400,000 per year would run afoul of one of his key campaign promises.
We’ll see where all this goes.
One thing is clear. There are at least ten members of the U. S. Senate who are willing to set aside their party labels and work quietly and hard, in a spirit of patriotism, to forge a compromise that can benefit all Americans. Yes, there may be flaws in their final product. But they deserve the appreciation of all Spirited Reasoners for their efforts to revive a bipartisan process that was once given up for dead.