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Sinema meets with Biden as senators hammer out infrastructure disputes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday that the lingering issues have "been narrowed significantly" since Sunday.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the top Democratic negotiator on the bipartisan infrastructure deal, met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday, two people familiar with the plan said.

"They talked about their shared confidence in getting the framework over the finish line soon based on recent negotiations," said one of the sources, who was granted anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

The meeting came as senators struggle to finalize the agreement, stuck over disputes involving money for highways and public transit, broadband policy and labor provisions regarding the construction of projects, according to senators and aides.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday that the lingering issues have "been narrowed significantly" since Democrats sent the GOP a comprehensive offer on Sunday.

“There are a bunch of issues still outstanding," Schumer, D-N.Y., said. "But we're making progress. We're not there yet but we're making progress."

Schumer said senators should be prepared to work over the weekend, and potentially into the previously scheduled month-long August recess, in order to finish the bill and advance the budget resolution to pass a separate $3.5 trillion package for Biden's economic policies.

On Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Republicans had sent back a counter-offer on the issue transit. He wouldn't divulge details, but he called it "eminently reasonable."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is part of the working group, said the deal was "close."

"There's a few different things — basically just language now," he said. "It's pretty much come together."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she expects the group to eventually reach a deal.

"Ultimately, yes," she told NBC News on Monday. "But it’s painful."

Biden and Sinema are both invested in sealing the deal for similar reasons.

The president campaigned on working fruitfully with Republicans, and Sinema is an outspoken proponent of the Senate filibuster rule, which she argues enables bipartisan cooperation and stability in lawmaking. Infrastructure represents perhaps their best opportunity to deliver on that premise.

Julie Tsirkin contributed.