Sanders, Biden meet as infrastructure bill swells past $3.5T

Infrastructure

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 12, 2021, following his meeting with President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Emerging from a private meeting at the White House, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday that he and President Joe Biden are on the same page as Democrats draft a “transformative” infrastructure package unleashing more than $3.5 trillion in domestic investments on par with the New Deal of the 1930s.

Sanders and Democratic senators on the Budget Committee will huddle privately late Monday at the Capitol during a consequential time for Biden’s top priority. Congress is racing to put together a sweeping infrastructure proposal for initial votes later this month. He and Biden had a “very good discussion,” he said.

“He knows and I know that we’re seeing an economy where the very, very rich are getting richer while working families are struggling,” Sanders told reporters at the White House.

Sanders said he and the president did not discuss a topline figure, but the Vermont senator mentioned his own more far-reaching $6 trillion proposal, which includes expanding Medicare for older adults. Later at the Capitol, he told reporters that the Democrats’ package would be bigger than $3.5 trillion, an amount floated as in line with Biden’s initial proposal.

“The end of the day we’re going to accomplish something very significant,” Sanders said.

Biden’s big infrastructure proposals are moving through Congress on various tracks — each potentially complementing or torpedoing the other.

A bipartisan group of 10 senators unveiled a nearly $1 trillion package of traditional infrastructure for roads, bridges, broadband and some climate change investments in electric vehicles and resiliency for extreme weather conditions.

Senators in the bipartisan group are struggling to draft their proposal into legislation but hope to have a bill ready as soon as this week. Disagreements are emerging over how to pay for it.

“Pay-fors are still up in the air,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

The rest of Biden’s ideas are being collected into the much broader multitrillion-dollar package that could be approved by Democrats on their own under a special budget reconciliation process that allows passage with 51 votes in the Senate, rather than the typical 60-vote threshold that’s needed to overcome a Senate filibuster.

Sanders, as chair of the Budget Committee, has been leading his colleagues in a series of private conversations. A one-time Biden rival for the presidency, Sanders now holds an influential position shaping the president’s top priority.

“My job is to do everything I can to see that the Senate comes forward with the strongest possible legislation to protect the needs of the working families of this country,” Sanders said at the White House.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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