Sen. Portman: GOP 'Absolutely Committed' to Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, attends a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Belarus at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on June 09, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 21 June 2021 11:19 AM
Senate Republicans are committed to reaching a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, according to Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
As one of the GOP senators talking about infrastructure with Democrats, Portman appeared on NBC’s "Meet the Press" Sunday and discussed working to finalize a package.
"I think we're absolutely committed to it, and I think there is a number of others, as well, on both sides of the aisle," Portman said. "There is a lot of interest in having a bipartisan proposal."
Portman and 10 fellow Republican senators have met with 10 Senate Democrat colleagues and members of the Biden administration to try and reach a bipartisan infrastructure agreement.
If the two sides fail to reach an agreement, Democrats could try to pass an infrastructure package through the reconciliation process, which would not require Republican support.
The Washington Examiner reported that a smaller group of bipartisan lawmakers last week agreed on a proposal that would total $974 billion on infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, waterways, and expanded broadband.
That proposal would include about $579 billion in new spending over five years but remains far less than President Joe Biden's $1.7 trillion proposal, according to the Examiner.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that lawmakers will pursue two different tracks – one considering bipartisan legislation, and another Democrat-led bill aimed at being passed via reconciliation.
The reconciliation process began with a meeting between Schumer and members on a budget resolution.
Besides the cost, lawmakers also disagree on what is defined as broadband, the Examiner said. Some Democrats are seeking structural reforms related to healthcare and climate change.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., argued that the bipartisan proposal does not do enough to fund the areas he and other Democrat members want. He’s working with Schumer on a package for reconciliation.
"What they are talking about spending money on is reasonable. It’s exactly what we are talking about. Our infrastructure is crumbling. We need to invest in roads, bridges," Sanders said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
"On the other hand, absolutely, we’ve got to go forward with the needs of working families in terms of child care, paid family and medical leave, climate, etc."
Senate Democrats vulnerable in the 2022 midterms are hoping for a bipartisan infrastructure deal rather than a package pushed by Biden and the progressive Democrats.
"I want to see this get done, and I prefer we do this in a bipartisan way," Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., told The Hill.
Kelly said infrastructure was "at the top of my list," noting a more traditional proposal is needed in his state.
"I've driven every corner of Arizona over the last couple of years," Kelly told The Hill. "Seems like every road and highway needs help.
"The major highway between Tucson and Phoenix doesn't have feeder roads in most places. It's a public safety issue."
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., another vulnerable Democrat, told The Hill, "what's important is that we work together to reflect the values of our constituents."
"I think it's always important when we can do things in a bipartisan way to reflect the way our constituents do things," Hassan said. "They work together without regard to political party all the time and there’s large bipartisan support for infrastructure."