What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Why the infrastructure deal is still under discussion

On Capitol Hill, bipartisan infrastructure talks are on shaky grounds. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins reports on the latest hiccup in the negotiations, and when progress can be expected.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On Capitol Hill, bipartisan infrastructure deal talks have run into a little Washington gridlock.

    To help us understand where negotiations stand right now, our Lisa Desjardins.

    So, Lisa, tell us, where does everything stand? What is the latest hang-up?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, in this up-and-down quest for a giant infrastructure bill for the country, I have to say this is the largest speed bump that these bipartisan negotiators have run into.

    Over the weekend, as these negotiators were working around the clock and with the White House to see if they can just finish that final, I guess, 5 percent that is left to negotiate, they ended up discovering that they really are perhaps farther apart than they realized.

    I want to take a look right now at exactly what the remaining issues are on the table in this bipartisan infrastructure discussion. There's quite a few of them.

    So, there you go. There are — one of the first issues — and we have been talking about this before — is transit funds and how much public transportation is funded in this vs. highways and bridges. Democrats want more money for public transit than Republicans would like.

    Another issue, wages for those who actually construct and carry out this infrastructure bill. Democrats would like to include part of an old law here in America that would say these workers should be given the wages that match roughly the local wages in the area where they are working.

    Infrastructure bank, this is an idea on the table from both parties, but there is a question of how much federal funding should go to this concept of a public-private bank to help for infrastructure. A really big one that could affect states and towns is how much of the COVID relief money that has already been passed by Congress should be pulled back and should be used for infrastructure instead.

    And, finally, one I want to talk about at length, water projects. This is the issue that caused a major snafu over the weekend, a major block between the parties. And the person really raising objections is someone outside of the bipartisan group that is negotiating, Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat of Delaware.

    He chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee. And late last week, he started raising objections to what he saw in the bipartisan deal. He is someone who has pushed very hard for a different bipartisan water bill. And he said he will — in fact, objects so strongly that, unless they include the bill that he passed and the full funding for it, that he personally will block any bipartisan infrastructure deal.

    A lot of folks aren't sure if he really would or not, but this is really a major hangup. He wants more money to fix lead pipes, especially for depressed communities, and also to clean up a chemical called PFAS. That's something a lot of us experienced at home in things like nonstick plates or nonstick pans.

    But it's something that in our waterways really builds up and lives a long time. It affects drinking water. So these are the issues on the table right now.

    As we speak, Judy, it's not clear how and when they will be able to work this out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's a lot of different pieces to be resolved, Lisa.

    So what is the sense right now at the Capitol? Are they going to be able to come up with a deal or not?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right. I'm checking my phone as we speak, because lawmakers, those — that Senate gang of 10 is meeting right now to see if they can actually hash out an agreement again on this final kind of 5 percent that's left in this deal.

    They wanted to have this written by tonight. We're going to have to wait and see. I will tell you this. People have been working around the clock on this. Staff is exhausted. Some senators are exhausted. There's a lot of frustration that a very big problem has come up in the last minute.

    But there still is a sense that somehow this will get through, somehow there will be what I call a Senate rainbow. There'll be a big storm and then all of a sudden the sun will come out. How they get there, we never know, but in the next day or two, a lot of hope for a rainbow.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, we will call it the Lisa Desjardins rainbow. We're remembering that, Lisa.

    Thank you.


  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I'll take it.

Listen to this Segment