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Officials set no deadline yet on infrastructure deal

by Bloomberg | June 7, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- Bipartisan talks on a U.S. infrastructure bill are headed for a "big week," but there's no firm deadline yet for a deal, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

While President Joe Biden and key Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito have agreed to talk again today to discuss a potential agreement, pressure is building on the administration -- including from progressive Democrats -- to abandon bipartisan efforts and attempt to pass the infrastructure bill without GOP support.

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"There's no hard-wired deadline," Raimondo said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "So we won't do this forever, but right now, there are good-faith efforts on both sides and we're going to continue the work of doing our job and trying to get a bipartisan agreement."

Biden rejected Friday the latest offer from a group of Senate Republicans led by West Virginia's Capito that called for about $50 billion more in spending than they previously proposed, according to the White House. That offer came after Biden lowered his initial demand for a $2.3 trillion bill to $1.7 trillion, all of which would be new spending.

"This has got to be done soon," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on CNN's "State of the Union," while saying she wasn't "putting a specific date on it."

"It's just a bit perplexing why the Republicans haven't moved further on critical pieces," she said.

Separately, a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers are preparing to reveal a roughly $878 billion infrastructure proposal probably this week, Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich tweeted Sunday without saying how the information was obtained.

Capito's group has offered a plan that on its face totals $928 billion in spending over eight years, but only $257 billion of that would be new spending above amounts Congress was expected to approve anyway.

While stopping short of deadlines for a big infrastructure bill, Raimondo cited parallel efforts to advance a $547 billion highway and transit bill.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, plans to begin debate on that legislation this week. DeFazio and Biden last week discussed "the benefits of continued engagement with Democratic and Republican senators as the House works on infrastructure advances this coming week," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday.

The administration is open to a "range of options" on infrastructure, which she said included working with a bipartisan group of senators including Republican Mitt Romney of Utah and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, Psaki said.

Manchin, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," said he remained confident a bipartisan bill could be finalized.

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