Federal lawmakers advocated for competing infrastructure bills Sunday, a day before President Joe Biden is expected to comment on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.
The bipartisan package, which has support from 21 lawmakers from both major parties, would seek to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, public transportation, water systems and broadband access. It would spend $973 billion over five years and $1.2 trillion over eight.
Biden told reporters last week he planned to comment on the bill Monday, when he expected to receive a copy of it. The bill provides less spending than the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan the White House proposed earlier this year.
Lawmakers who worked on the bipartisan package said it won’t raise taxes while providing a long-term investment in the nation’s economic health. They also expressed confidence in its ability to pass through Congress because infrastructure has been a bipartisan priority.
"It's what the country wants. They want us to work together. And I really, really believe that's why this is going to get over the finish line," Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a leader of the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus, told CNN’s State of the Union.
With 11 Republicans on board, the bill could clear the 60-vote threshold for passage in the U.S. Senate, if all Democrats approve it.
But the bill is facing criticism from progressives, who say it doesn’t target enough of their priorities, including climate change.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is working on a separate $6-trillion reconciliation bill that would include "human infrastructure," such as affordable child care, Medicare expansion and paid family leave.
"Does anyone think that child care in America is satisfactory? It is a disaster," Sanders told CNN. "We got a housing crisis. How do you not deal with climate? You tell me."
Sanders expressed support for elements of the bipartisan bill but expressed concern about how to pay for it.
Sen. Rob Portman, a lead negotiator on the bipartisan bill, called Sanders’ plan a "$6-trillion grab-bag of progressive priorities."
"Ours is about core infrastructure, and it is paid for… without raising taxes, which is key," Portman (R-Ohio) told NBC’s Meet The Press.
Portman said negotiators are considering funding it through stronger tax enforcement, fees on electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as repurposing COVID-19 related federal funding and indexing the gas tax to inflation.
Portman said officials must get "creative" in how they would fund the measure, saying it should not include raising taxes. Biden’s proposal included raising corporate taxes to 28%.
"What we don't want to do is hurt the economy right now as we're coming out of this pandemic by raising taxes on working families," Portman told NBC.
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said Republicans would work with Biden on a $1 trillion infrastructure package but that Biden should expect "pushback from every Republican" if he went with the $6 trillion package.
"You've got a Republican Party that's willing to meet you in the middle for a trillion dollars of infrastructure that could fundamentally change the way America does business in roads, ports, and bridges and accelerate electrical vehicles," Graham said on "Fox News Sunday." "You've got to decide what kind of president you are and what kind of presidency you want."
Also Sunday, Congress members spoke on a Democrat-backed voting rights bill, which the Senate is expected to vote on Tuesday.
Sanders said the measure is needed to "preserve democracy" and ensure "people of color, young people, poor people" and those with disabilities are not denied the right to vote.
Republicans are expected to block the measure.
Portman and Graham said Sunday the election reform bill would amount to the federal takeover of elections powers from states.