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As pressure mounts, infrastructure talks are in trouble

Heading into a make-or-break week, serious roadblocks remain. There is a dispute over how much money should be given to public transit. However, there is still some disagreement about spending on highways, water project, broadband, and other areas. It is also unclear whether COVID-19 relief funds should be used to pay for infrastructure.

Democrats and the White House made a new "global" offer to address remaining issues. However, it was rejected by Republicans early Monday as "discouraging". This is a setback in the hopes for an afternoon deal.

Biden answered reporters at the White House when asked about his outlook. He said he was optimistic about reaching a deal.

After a long and exhausting month of negotiations, Biden and the bipartisan group celebrated the beginnings of the bipartisan agreement in June at White House.

Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has stated that he would like to pass the almost $1 trillion bipartisan package and the blueprint for a larger $3.5 billion budget plan before the Senate departs for August recess.

Although the White House is seeking a bipartisan agreement in this first phase, talks are dragging on. Democrats with a slim control over the Senate and House could abandon Republicans and decide to do it all alone. It could be incorporated into the larger package of Biden’s priorities that Democrats hope to pass later if it fails.

Trump released a Monday statement in which he criticized Senate Republicans for not negotiating with Democrats on infrastructure. It's unclear how much influence he holds. When he was president, the former president had failed to make an infrastructure deal.

Bipartisan legislation includes $600 billion of new spending on public infrastructure projects. Democrats want more money to be used to improve public transportation. This includes light-rail lines and buses.

According to a Democratic aide, the White House and Democrats had made a "global offer" to Republicans to resolve remaining issues late Sunday. The White House and Democrats granted anonymity so that they could discuss them.

According to a GOP aide, Republicans rejected the ideas. They also refused to speak out about the private talks. According to the aide, the new proposal was meant to revisit issues that were already resolved.

According to the aide, Republicans think the White House must show more flexibility in order to have successful talks.

Initial reports indicated that the bipartisan group was moving towards a deal on transit funding. However, Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, who is the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee's top Republican, raised concerns. He also cited COVID-19 federal relief money previously allocated to public transit.

Toomey stated Sunday that "nobody is talking about cutting transit." "The question is: How many tens or billions of dollars, on top of the massive increase they have already received, is sufficient? There is some disagreement about this.

The federal Highway Trust Fund spends 80% on highways and 20% on transit. Democratic Senators. Sherrod Brown from Ohio and Tom Carper from Delaware said they would oppose the deal if transit funding fell below this level.

According to a Democratic aide, Democrats accepted the Republican proposal for highway spending. However, Republicans had to agree to the Democratic position regarding public transit.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated Friday that transit funding was "clearly extremely important for the president -- the Amtrak President," as we may call it. "But, we believe that members are able to get this work done. They can also work through these issues quite rapidly."

Also, the senators appeared to have solved issues related to funding public water infrastructure. The group reached an agreement to increase $15 billion for lead pipe contamination, in addition to funds that were already approved by the Senate water bill.

The Democratic aide stated that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) made another proposal that Democrats rejected as unworkable.

Romney's office rejected this claim as "laughably falsified."

Romney's office pointed to the White House website and stated that the deal on water was expected to result in $55 billion in new spending.

To pass a filibuster, the final package will need 60 senators from the equally divided 50-50 Senate. This would mean that at least 10 Republicans and every Democratic member must support it. The test vote last week was a failure on all sides.

Other issues remain unresolved about how to pay. Details on funding for broadband, and whether to tap into COVID relief funds that Congress has not yet passed, are still being discussed.

After rejecting a hike in gas tax drivers must pay at the pump, Democrats seek a compromise to fund the package. Republicans vetoed a plan that would have allowed the IRS to pursue tax scofflaws.

Federal COVID-19 Emergency Assistance, which included $30.5 billion signed into law by Biden in March, brought transit agencies back from the brink. Riders opted to avoid crowded spots on buses and subway cars, saving them money. Federal aid will cover operating costs due to declining passenger revenue, COVID-19 cleaning and safety protocols up through 2022.

Democrats and advocates for public transit see expanding public transit as key to traffic congestion reduction, climate change mitigation and curbing car emissions.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the chairman of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently wrote a letter to 30 Democrats on the panel advising that the Senate proposal was insufficient and that any deal should include the $715 billion House infrastructure bill. This bill includes more money for transit and rail.

Paul Skoutelas of the American Public Transportation Association stated Sunday that the historical share for public transportation from the Highway Trust Fund was 20%. It is the minimum acceptable level for sustaining our nation's public transport systems. It is crucial that we make forward-looking investments in public transit to modernize and expand it. This will help us recover from the COVID pandemic, and put Americans back to work.

Portman was featured on ABC's "This Week", Toomey appeared on CNN's"State of the Union" while Warner spoke on Fox News Sunday.

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