This request comes at a time when lawmakers are still trying to complete negotiations on the package, despite stubborn disagreements about how to fund it. Staff and lawmakers are expected to continue working through the weekend, sorting out the tensions around funding for water resources and public transit, and other details, in what they hope will be the final stages.
Long-term care facility representatives said that tapping into virus relief funds would be "shortsighted", especially as COVID-19 variants keep spreading.
The senators who are working on the infrastructure plan expect to have a bill ready for next week's vote. President Joe Biden made it a top priority to pass the bipartisan plan, which is the first part of his $4 trillion plan to rebuild. However, a Senate test vote was canceled this week because Republicans claimed they need more time to complete the package and review its details.
Negotiators are still trying to figure out how to finance the new spending without increasing income taxes or user fees, such as the federal gasoline tax. They are looking into other funding options, such as undoing the Trump-era rule regarding pharmaceutical rebates, redirecting billions from last year's COVID relief, and tapping other possible funding streams.
Even if negotiators reach an agreement, it is not clear that the funding sources will be approved by the Congressional Budget Office. This office is the main arbiter for many bills in Congress. Some lawmakers might balk at the idea of the package not being fully funded and vote against it.
On Bloomberg Television, Sen. Bill Cassidy (Republican from Louisiana) stated that "Folks" will always have a problem with the pay-fors. Multiple economists across the political spectrum agree that we will pay for it and will be able not only to pay for it but also point to long-term economic benefits for society.
On Friday, groups representing long-term care facilities and nursing homes urged negotiators to not redirect money from a fund that was established to reimburse health care providers in the event of COVID-19.
Friday's announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services indicated that $24 billion has not been allocated to providers out of $178 billion Congress appropriated for the fund through relief measures.
According to the groups, some members of the group have not been able get reimbursements for expenses or lost revenue incurred during the last months of 2020 and this calendar year. They are anxiously waiting for another round of funding from HHS.
An aide to the Democratic Party who was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations said that the issue of how to redirect COVID relief funds is one of the remaining issues. Another issue is the amount that would go to public transit. The aide also stated that there are disputes about broadband funds and labor laws.
The senators stated that they would not support any package which neglects this essential part of the nation's infrastructure.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) stated that 20 percent of Highway Trust Fund funding has traditionally gone to transit, whereas 80% goes for roads and bridges. Republicans are concerned that the bipartisan framework will change that ratio in favor of transit.
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), also expressed concerns about the wastewater and water segments of the bill. She stated that she wouldn't support a final bill if it didn't fully fund the $35.9 million water bill she sponsored, which was passed by the Senate with a vote of 892 to 2.
Carper stated that senators had been assured that the legislation would receive full funding, but that $15 billion could be used to remove lead pipes.
To pass a filibuster, the final package will need 60 senators from the equally divided 50-50 Senate. The test vote last week was a failure on all sides.
The House would then receive the package. Some Democrats fear that the Senate has neglected their priorities and are warning that they should not take their votes for granted.
Next, Congress will turn to Biden’s larger goals which are being drawn out in a $3.5 billion package that Democrats plan on passing on their own under special budget reconciliation regulations that would allow for 51 votes in the Senate.