Senator Rob Portman is confident that infrastructure deal will work through setbacks

WASHINGTON, DC – The $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework Senator Rob Portman spent months negotiating with Democrats has hit a legislative pothole or two, but the Ohio Republican told reporters on Tuesday he was confident they would eventually come to a deal because the need to improve the nation’s economy and crumbling infrastructure is so great.

Portman says he spent long hours closing the bill. He says he discussed the Zoom calls deal until 10:45 p.m. Monday night, and followed it up with individual calls to the White House and other Democrats until after midnight.

“We’re working really hard on this,” Portman said. ” We will get there. But we need a little more time to get it right.

Portman said it was premature for Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer to force a vote on the proposal on Wednesday. Schumer said Tuesday the vote would be on a “shell bill, just a vehicle to kick off the whole process,” but Republicans like Portman want to wait until the legislative language is ready.

“It’s better to do it right,” Portman said. “This is a major project that will affect the lives of every American. It should not be rushed by arbitrary deadlines.

Right now, negotiators are trying to figure out how to pay for the expenses of the bill. A proposal to do so by strengthening enforcement of existing laws by the Internal Revenue Service was rejected by some of Portman’s Republican colleagues who said they feared it could lead to abuse. Democrats also said they would include a similar proposal with even more IRS enforcement in a separate $ 3.5 trillion spending bill that they intended to push through without government support. Republicans as part of the reconciliation process.

Another proposed payment method – the cancellation of a Trump-era plan that would allow drug benefit managers to pass savings on to Medicare consumers rather than insurance companies – encountered a similar problem with Democrats wanting to use the same pot of money to pay their reconciliation bill. . Portman said his team would likely use this as a partial payment, extending the delay in its implementation that the Biden administration has already put in place.

Although the plan was to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs, Portman said it didn’t work out as expected because it ended up increasing insurance premiums, so the two sides didn’t want this to happen. continues.

He said his group was still awaiting a response from the Congressional Budget Office on the amount of payment methods they agreed to to offset the expenses.

“It’s always the challenge,” Portman said. “This is one of the reasons tomorrow’s vote is premature, because we don’t have all of this information.”

Portman nonetheless said he was confident a deal would be made because it is popular with the American people, will improve the economy and generate more taxes over time.

“I just don’t see, even with the dysfunction of Congress these days, that we can’t cross the finish line given that we have put in several hundred working hours on both sides of the world to do this. alley. , and we managed, frankly, to exceed expectations because expectations are quite low these days when it comes to bipartisanship. “

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