But the bipartisan group of senators is part of a broader coalition of moderates who have met quietly since Mr Biden took office to seek compromises on a number of issues. Moderate Democrats in particular have resisted immediately bypassing the Republican vote on an infrastructure package that has long been considered particularly ripe for a bipartisan agreement.
The five Republicans are Senators Rob Portman from Ohio, Mitt Romney from Utah, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Susan Collins from Maine, and Bill Cassidy from Louisiana. The Democrats are the main moderates: Senators Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, Joe Manchin III from West Virginia, Mark Warner from Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire and Jon Tester from Montana.
“I think it’s important that there is this initiative, which in turn is a bipartisan initiative,” Murkowski said before the announcement. “What is happening now is that we, as Republicans and Democrats, go to the people at our respective conferences and talk about the contours of what we’ve put together to see how much that support could be.”
With razor-thin margins in both chambers, the leaders of the Democrats have begun quietly working on the legislation necessary for the accelerated budget reconciliation process that would allow them to move a large infrastructure package by simple majority. However, the maneuver would require near unanimity from the group and promises to be a challenge given the strict budgetary rules that govern the process.
“We must either go bipartisan by 60 votes, which, given the substance of the bipartisan negotiations underway, shows no sign of taking place, or we must be ready to take advantage of the reconciliation process,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island and one the most vocal advocate for climate protection preservation. “It has to happen.”
New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, refused to comment on the details of the bipartisan group when he left the Capitol on Thursday. “We continue to do two things,” he told reporters. “A non-partisan path and a path of reconciliation – and both are moving forward.”