KTVH: Sen. Tester optimistic on compromise $1T infrastructure plan

by Mike Dennison

A compromise infrastructure proposal that’s half the amount initially proposed by President Biden should be introduced in the U.S. Senate early next week, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., told MTN News Thursday.

And, Tester thinks it has a fighting chance to pass the evenly split Senate.

“We’re certainly not going to get all the Republicans, but we’re not going to get all the Democrats either,” he said. “But we should get the 60 votes (we’d need to break a filibuster).”

Tester is one of 10 senators – five Republicans, five Democrats – who hammered out the initial compromise proposal with a $1 trillion, five-year price-tag.

By Thursday, that group had expanded to 21 senators, the Washington Post reported.

Tester said Thursday the package will finance “traditional infrastructure,” such as roads, bridges, broadband networks and transit systems.

“Things like housing, money for (veterans’) facilities, child care, senior care – things which, by the way, I support – are not in it, because they fell off during negotiations,” he said.

The cost will be covered by increased revenue from increased enforcement of tax collections, leftover, unspent Covid-19 relief funds and other income sources he described as “Washingtonian types of things.”

The package currently includes an indexed increase in the federal gasoline tax, starting next year, but Tester said he opposes that increase and will work to remove it.

Montana’s Republican U.S. senator, Steve Daines, is not among the bipartisan group of supporters.

Through a spokeswoman, he said Thursday he wants to see the final product – but remains opposed to any spending that doesn’t have bipartisan support or any tax increases.

Some progressive Democrats have said they intend to vote against any infrastructure plan that doesn’t include action on climate change or other priorities.

Tester said “everyone is entitled to their opinion” and acknowledged that climate change is a problem that needs addressing. But, he urged them to consider the compromise proposal on its own merits.

“I think it would really be important that they do as I’m going to do – take a look at the bill, see what it does for your state, see what it does for the nation as a whole,” he said. “Ask yourself – does this help us compete with China? And then make the decision based on that.”

Tester also noted that while the infrastructure compromise bill won’t include many of Biden’s original proposals, Democrats intend to introduce additional bills to address those concerns.

Senate Democrats also are considering whether some of those bills – and, perhaps even the compromise infrastructure bill – may use the so-called “reconciliation” process that requires only a simple 51-vote majority of the Senate to pass a bill, instead of 60 votes, he said.

“You never know what’s going to happen here,” Tester said. “Things can fall apart real easily and things can happen quicker than you might think, too. It just depends on how the senators react to it, how outside groups react to it, and then we can move from there.”