Biden And Bipartisan Senate Group Reach Infrastructure Deal But the president cautioned that the bipartisan deal wouldn't be enacted without a separate proposal moving along with just Democratic support.

'We Have A Deal': Biden Announces A Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement With Senators

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There's a bipartisan deal today in Washington on an eight-year plan to spend 1.2 trillion on infrastructure. President Joe Biden announced the agreement at the White House following a meeting with 10 senators, five from each party. They helped craft the plan. Biden celebrated the moment as proof that Washington isn't broken.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: But this reminds me of the days we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress. We actually worked with one another. We got bipartisan deals. Bipartisan deals mean to compromise.

CORNISH: This deal is just the start of what could be a long and difficult process before any new roads or bridges are underway. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been following these talks. She joins us now. And Kelsey, to start, what's in this agreement?

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Well, like you said, it is $1.2 trillion, and it includes about $550 billion in new money over what Congress was already on track to spend. And this is focused entirely on what we've been hearing called hard infrastructure. So the bulk of that money is for transportation, things like roads and bridges and also transit and safety and airports, the way we get around the country and the world. There's also money for water infrastructure, broadband internet and beefing up the electric grid - so those traditional definitions of infrastructure that we often hear.

CORNISH: So what's missing?

SNELL: Well, this doesn't have any of the provisions that Democrats say are completely necessary, in their minds, to address this new definition of an infrastructure, which they're defining as all of the systems that allow people to participate in the economy. So that means none of the child care and elder care provisions that they were discussing, none of the tax credits or most of the climate change provisions that Democrats wanted to have in any infrastructure bill. So this is strictly an agreement on a framework for addressing the areas where Democrats and Republicans agree on the definition of infrastructure and how they want to go about paying for it.

CORNISH: So why are Biden and negotiators essentially celebrating this as proof that Congress works?

SNELL: Well, they are right. It is not insignificant for them to be getting a deal right now. Many people in Washington thought it was impossible to get any kind of an agreement on this, and the group has certainly proven them wrong on that front. You know, some Democrats were agitating for Biden to walk away from this weeks ago, and they wanted to move ahead without any Republicans. You know, Biden and these negotiators in the group said it was critical that they find a way. Maine Republican Susan Collins put it this way.

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SUSAN COLLINS: It was essential to show the American people that the Senate can function, that we can work in a bipartisan way.

SNELL: And in many ways, they proved that. They were able to get an agreement. They were able to do something that, you know, Biden could sign onto. And they are moving forward in a way that they think that they can make this law.

CORNISH: So from your reporting, I understand this is just the start. Could this move quickly?

SNELL: It probably can't. You know, Biden did a press conference after they announced this where he added a really important caveat to all of this. He said he wants Democrats to work on a separate bill to address that whole rest of the proposals, all those human infrastructure parts we were just talking about. And he wants to pass those policies, even if they have to use special budget rules to do it without any Republican votes. He said he wouldn't sign a bipartisan bill unless they did that. You know, that's in part because progressives in the House are pressuring leaders to do that. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters today that she won't allow a vote on the bipartisan elements at all unless Senate Democrats also pass that human infrastructure through budget reconciliation, which allows them to avoid the filibuster.

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NANCY PELOSI: There won't be an infrastructure bill unless we have a reconciliation bill...

SNELL: Now, the leader of the...

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PELOSI: ...Plain and simple.

SNELL: And the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal, put out a statement backing that strategy. But that's complicated (laughter).

CORNISH: How do they move forward?

SNELL: You know, timing will be a really big part of this. They need to pass identical budgets. They need to go through the whole budget process, and they need to make sure that they have enough votes for these packages. Doesn't have to be the same coalitions of people to support the bipartisan bill as the partisan bill, but they have to do it, and they have to do it in a way that satisfies progressives in the House and moderates in the Senate.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Kelsey Snell. Thanks for your reporting.

SNELL: Thanks for having me.

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