Even before 10 senators from both parties announced a broad-based agreement on an eight-year $1.2 trillion plan on Thursday, some members of the Senate Democratic Caucus threatened to oppose it, jeopardizing the effort before the group could do much of the work. had finalized the details.
The criticism grew louder by the day, underscoring growing tension within the ranks as moderates urge their colleagues to show patience and as Democratic leaders struggle to find a deal that can pass the 50-50 Senate and the various factions within their party.
“Let’s face it. It’s time to move on,” Sen said. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told CNN about the talks with the bipartisan group. “The Republicans have kept us going long enough.”
sen. Richard Blumenthal added: “I’m not confident that this bipartisan group will make a deal. They should have limited time to do this. I really think it’s time to pull the plug now and quickly and take strong action … I make sure that time is wasted.”
“We just don’t have time to lose,” said the Connecticut Democrat.
The public rebuke comes as Democratic White House and Senate leaders give both parties’ negotiators time to see if they can make a deal that can pass Congress, with a bipartisan group of 10 senators saying on Thursday they would had reached an agreement “on a comprehensive framework” and it would be “paid in full and not include any tax increases”.
The challenge for the White House and Democratic leaders — if they support this plan — will be to convince the left that the priorities left out of the two-party agreement will eventually be incorporated into the next proposal, which Democrats want to pass along party lines. through the filibuster-proof budgeting process.
Of the $1.2 trillion in the bipartisan group’s proposal, $578 billion would represent new spending. The cost over five years would be $947 billion, according to two sources familiar with the case.
But the details are yet to be written and face an uphill task to gain enough support to become law.
Democratic leaders say they are pursuing Biden’s massive infrastructure and social safety net package along both bipartisan and partisan tracks. As bipartisan talks continue, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is preparing to begin the budget process next month, paving the way for a bill along straight party lines, something that can only succeed if all 50 Democrats endorse such a process known as reconciliation.
“We’re on two tracks: a dual track and a reconciliation track, and both are moving forward,” Schumer told CNN on Thursday.
Still, a number of Democrats say it’s unlikely that whatever bipartisan deal moves forward will gain widespread support within their caucus.
“I think it’s been very clear to those negotiators that we support them, but there’s no guarantee you can get 50 Democratic votes for the package they’re producing,” said Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat.
Democrats are particularly concerned about how the package will be paid for — as Republican senators say there will be no tax hikes and as Democrats have demanded new taxes from corporations and high-income earners to pay for the plan. But the bipartisan group is instead looking to redirect Covid-19 aid funds already enacted, while raising gas taxes subject to inflation — ideas some Democrats flatly oppose.
When asked about Republicans’ refusal to raise taxes to help pay for the plan, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono replied, “I totally disagree.”
The divisions underscore not only political differences within the Democratic caucus, but regional ones as well. Many of the legislators in the bipartisan group come from states outside the Northeast Corridor where residents rely heavily on rail and public transportation.
“I worry when I see groups of senators with no members of the Northeast Corridor who really care about us drastically changing transit times,” Murphy said.
sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said he is “certain” that the two-party talks won’t deliver “what I think we need to do for the people of Pennsylvania,” calling for the fixing of both Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan and $2.3 Trillion US Jobs Plan.
But the Democrats have a problem: They don’t have a consensus to pass such a huge bill along straight party lines, as moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are urging to continue two-party talks instead.
“Right now we don’t have the votes to do that,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who is also involved in the bipartisan talks, said when asked if she would support a Democratic-only approach through the reconciliation process.
“I say let’s give it a little more time,” said Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who has caucuses with Democrats. “The legislative process was designed to be slow and cumbersome.”
On the Republican side, members of the bipartisan group briefed Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday, with GOP members telling reporters McConnell had indicated he was “open” to let the talks go.
“Mitch McConnell said yesterday he was open to it. That’s a good next step,” said Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana who is part of the group trying to negotiate a bipartisan deal.
However, other Republican leaders have expressed doubts that a deal reached could rally the 10 Republicans needed to overcome a filibuster attempt.
Senate GOP Whip John Thune of South Dakota and Texas Sen. John Cornyn said the proposed amount would need to be close to what Republican negotiators had already offered Biden — about $300 billion in new money and $1 trillion in total spending — to gain broad support in the Republican conference. However, that number has already been rejected by the White House.
“I think he thinks he’s going to get a better deal,” Cornyn said of Biden’s ongoing talks with a new batch of Republicans. “But there’s nothing that says what this group agrees with other Republicans they’ll support. To me, that’s the fault of this kind of approach.”
That conversation has alarmed liberals that 10 Republicans are unlikely to support a deal — even one that some of their members endorse.
“No,” said Senate Budget Chairperson Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who consults with Democrats, when asked if he would support the bipartisan group’s potential agreement.
“In my opinion, now is the time to finally stand up for the working families of this country. Black and white, Latino, Native American, Asian-American, that’s what we need to do,” Sanders said. “If your question is, do I think there are 10 Republicans who want that? No, I don’t.”
This story and headline were updated to reflect additional developments on Thursday.
CNN’s Ted Barrett and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.