The Republicans' lead negotiator for a bipartisan infrastructure bill said Sunday that lawmakers had dropped a proposal to boost IRS enforcement as a way to pay for the package.
Increasing IRS enforcement of tax collections to pay for the $579 billion bill had emerged as a point of contention among Senate negotiators, with many conservative anti-spending groups and lawmakers expressing concerns.
"One reason it's not part of the proposal is that we did have pushback. Another reason is that we found out that the Democrats were going to put a proposal into the reconciliation package which was not just similar to the one we had, but with a lot more IRS enforcement. So that created quite a problem, because the general agreement is that this is the bipartisan negotiated infrastructure package and that we will stick with that," Portman said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Senate Democrats are anxious to finish the infrastructure bill, which calls for $579 billion to build roads, bridges and public transit, so they can formally begin the $3.5 trillion party-line bill before a monthlong recess scheduled for August.
They are leery of crashing into fall deadlines to fund the government and lift the debt ceiling, two issues that could be contentious. The major holdup with the initial physical infrastructure bill has been a broad failure to agree on how to pay for the $579 billion in new spending.
A looming obstacle is the score from the Congressional Budget Office, which will test whether the financing proposals would sufficiently pay for the bill.
Portman said that lawmakers are "still negotiating" several "final details with the White House" and that he and other lawmakers from both parties would hold more talks later Sunday.
"Later today, we will be having additional negotiations with the Republicans and Democrats who have come together to put this bill into a track that's very unusual for Washington," he said.
Portman also dismissed the need for "arbitrary" deadlines and suggested that negotiators might not meet one set by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has said he wants a crucial procedural vote on the infrastructure deal Wednesday.
"Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, is not writing the bill, nor is Mitch McConnell," the Senate Republican leader, Portman said. "So that's why we shouldn't have an arbitrary deadline of Wednesday. We should bring the legislation forward when it's ready."