Biden, Sinema Meet on Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

Time is running short for negotiators ahead of a scheduled August recess.

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Sinema meets with Biden as talks continue on a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the lead Democratic negotiator on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, met with President Biden on Tuesday.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

July 27, 2021, 12:43 p.m. ET

President Biden is meeting with Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the lead Democratic negotiator on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, on Tuesday as talks between a group of senators and White House officials continue to hinge on a handful of unresolved disagreements over funding levels and how to finance the agreement.

The meeting, first reported by Politico and confirmed by two people familiar with the plans, is expected to center on the ongoing talks. Other senators involved in the talks expressed different degrees of optimism, but most said negotiations are likely to continue deeper into the week.

“If it takes a couple of extra days, fine,” said Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware, who is fighting for more funds for clean-water infrastructure. “At the end of the day, I think it’s just critically important to meet our priorities.”

The White House meeting comes more than a month after Mr. Biden, Ms. Sinema and nine other senators triumphantly announced a deal on a framework for $1.2 trillion in spending, with nearly $600 billion of that in new funding for roads, bridges, highways and broadband.

Time is running short for negotiators ahead of a scheduled August recess. Democratic leaders are determined to vote before the break not only on the bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, but also on a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that will unlock the party’s ability to use the fast-track reconciliation process and advance the remainder of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic agenda.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, made it clear that the parties are still arguing over transit funding. “There are still some other broad issues as well,” she added, “and there are minor issues throughout.”

It is not at all clear what impact a collapse of the bipartisan talks would mean to the larger package. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and a negotiator, told reporters on Tuesday, “If the bipartisan deal falls apart, then I think everything falls apart.”

He and Ms. Sinema, both key moderates, have not yet publicly committed to advancing a reconciliation package while negotiating the bipartisan deal.

But most negotiators struck a far more optimistic tone. Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said a deal is “absolutely” in reach.

Negotiators are still haggling over a number of unresolved items, including how much money to pour into transit programs. But after a round of finger-pointing between the two sides on Monday after Republicans panned the latest offer from Democrats, officials in both parties appeared more optimistic about the possibility for a deal.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, on Tuesday continued to warn that lawmakers would have to work through the weekend to finalize the deal. Lawmakers have said they will likely try to wrap the new funding for infrastructure projects into the budget blueprint should the bipartisan talks collapse.

“We are making good progress on both tracks: the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget resolution with reconciliation instructions,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor. “And to reiterate, senators should prepare to work through the weekend in order to finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill.”

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