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Senate negotiators at odds over final details of bipartisan infrastructure deal

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Washington — Republicans working on the bipartisan infrastructure deal rebuffed an offer from their Democratic counterparts and the White House to address the remaining issues in the talks, according to a GOP source familiar with the discussions, with negotiations over the details of the nearly $600 billion plan growing tenuous.

The GOP source said Republican senators made "very reasonable, good-faith offers" throughout the ongoing discussions and said their own proposal to Democrats and the White House was "met with silence" for three days.

"The 'global offer' we received from the White House and Chuck Schumer was discouraging since it attempts to reopen numerous issues the bipartisan group had already agreed to," the GOP source said. "If this is going to be successful, the White House will need to show more flexibility as Republicans have done and listen to the members of the group that produced this framework."

A Democratic source close to the talks confirmed that Democratic Senate negotiators and the White House made their "global offer" to Republicans that sought to resolve outstanding issues Sunday.

The group of senators are still negotiating several disputed items, including money for highways and bridges, water infrastructure, transit, broadband and using unspent COVID-19 pandemic relief money to pay for the infrastructure measure, according to the Democratic source. Also outstanding is a requirement that contractors and subcontractors working on federally funded contracts pay their workers no less than the "locally prevailing wages" for work on similar projects, the source said.

Part of the global offer sent by Democratic negotiators included a compromise where Democrats would accept a Republican proposal on highway funding in return for GOP members moving towards the Democratic position on mass transit, according to the source.

Democrats also accused Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who is involved in the discussions, of reneging on an agreement to fully fund a Senate water bill and dedicate $15 billion for lead pipe water contamination issues.

Romney's office, though, called those claims "laughably false" and pointed to a June fact sheet from the White House showing the bipartisan framework would include $55 billion in new spending for water infrastructure.

"After days of radio silence, Schumer now wants $70 billion. This is a direct violation of the bipartisan agreement," Romney's office said.

Senate negotiators suggested last week that Monday would be the day in which a deal on the details of the bipartisan infrastructure framework would be reached after GOP senators blocked an effort in the upper chamber to advance the plan.

Republicans said the procedural vote pushed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last week to begin consideration of the infrastructure bill was premature, as they were still working to hammer out the details and craft legislative text to be analyzed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. 

But even with several provisions still being negotiated, Democrats and Republicans involved in the discussions appeared optimistic they are on the cusp of reaching a deal on the bipartisan plan.

GOP Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a lead negotiator for Republicans, told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday the two sides remained at odds on money for mass transit, but said senators are "about 90% of the way there."

"I feel good about getting that done this week," he said. 

Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, meanwhile, predicted the details would be finalized Monday afternoon and said negotiators are "down to the last couple of items."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that wrangling as negotiations reach a conclusion on a deal is to be expected and said President Biden spend the weekend working the phones.

"We remain confident about reaching an agreement and we also remain interested in any Republican counteroffers," she said, adding the White House is "encouraged" about the path forward.

Mr. Biden announced a deal with the bipartisan group of senators on the infrastructure plan last month, and in the weeks since, White House officials have been working with lawmakers on the details of the measure, which is a pillar of the president's economic agenda.

Though the effort to begin debate on the plan failed in the Senate last week, Schumer moved to allow for another vote to be held at a future date.

On Monday, the Democratic leader urged negotiators to complete their work on the deal and said the Senate may remain in session through the weekend in order to finish the bill.

"We have reached a critical moment," Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor. "It's time for everyone to get to 'yes' and produce an outcome for the American people."

The White House and Democratic leaders are pushing for the two major pieces of legislation — the roughly $600 billion infrastructure measure and the broader $3.5 trillion plan — to move through Congress on a dual track. Both measures make up a significant portion of Mr. Biden's economic agenda, and the president has said they will help create jobs and drive economic growth.

The more sweeping bill is set to include the president's plans for health care, child care, education and climate and will be passed using a process called budget reconciliation, allowing it to be approved by the Senate with only Democratic support.

Schumer last week said he has "every intention" of passing both infrastructure packages before Congress leaves town for the August recess.

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