Bipartisan House group backs infrastructure deal, calling for vote

Washington — The House Problem Solvers Caucus on Tuesday endorsed the infrastructure deal crafted by a bipartisan group of senators and backed by President Biden, providing more momentum for the proposal as senators scramble to write the legislative text for the framework and approve it before the end of July.

The caucus, which includes 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans, also urged “an expeditious, stand-alone vote” in the House for the proposal. The senators’ bipartisan plan is similar to one offered by the caucus in June.

“The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus strongly supports the Senate infrastructure framework, which is closely aligned with our own ‘Building Bridges’ proposal released last month,” the caucus said in a statement. “In light of the bipartisan, bicameral genesis of the framework, we encourage an expeditious, stand-alone vote in the House and thank our bipartisan Senate partners and the Biden Administration for working so closely with us to demonstrate that cooperation is still possible in Washington.”

The relevant Senate committees are currently writing legislative text for the deal based on the framework offered by the bipartisan group, a tricky task given some of the fuzzy details of the proposal, particularly regarding how to pay for the nearly $1 trillion plan. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that the Senate will move forward with the bipartisan proposal this month.

“The Problem Solvers Caucus has proudly worked closely with our Senate partners these last months to develop a bipartisan infrastructure framework. With this new endorsement, there’s an even greater chance that we can get a standalone, bipartisan infrastructure package across the finish line,” said Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer, co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, in a statement.

The endorsement from the Problem Solvers Caucus provides a little breathing room for congressional leadership to pass the bill in the House. Democrats have an extremely narrow majority in the lower chamber, meaning that if the bill received no Republican votes and lost some Democratic votes, it would likely fail. If all Republican members of the Problem Solvers Caucus support the bipartisan proposal, that could offset any potential “no” votes from progressives, who have expressed skepticism about the deal.

Congressional Democrats are also moving forward with a reconciliation bill to address some of Mr. Biden’s priorities not addressed in the bipartisan bill, including some so-called “human” infrastructure measures such as child care, health care and education. The reconciliation process allows legislation to pass with a simple majority in the Senate. Many Democrats have also called for the large infrastructure package to include provisions related to combating climate change and green infrastructure.

Republicans bristled at the implication that the bipartisan deal and the reconciliation bill were linked, leading Mr. Biden to issue a statement last month reaffirming his commitment to passing both measures. Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, a co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, reiterated in a statement Tuesday that he believes the bipartisan bill should receive a standalone vote.

“We believe in two-party solutions, period,” Fitzpatrick said. “There is zero reason why this proposal should not receive an up-or-down vote in both chambers. A bipartisan, bicameral majority, along with the White House, have jointly spoken with one voice:  Let us vote on this package now — no strings attached. Let this bill be considered up-or-down on its own merits.”

Schumer has said that he wants to move forward with the reconciliation process this month as well, giving the Senate limited time to act ahead of the August recess.

The Senate Budget Committee, which is chaired by progressive Senator Bernie Sanders but whose Democratic membership runs the gamut of ideological diversity, is currently crafting a budget resolution, which will lay out the rules for the reconciliation process. It is unclear how much the reconciliation package will cost, as Sanders has suggested it could be up to $6 trillion but moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has signaled that he is unwilling to go above $2 trillion.

Meanwhile, the House voted last week to approve a separate $715 billion five-year transportation bill that shares some similarities with the bipartisan proposal.