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By Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Ali Zaslay | CNN

Liberal Senate Democrats are unloading on a bipartisan group of senators working on an infrastructure deal, warning that any pared-back measure to win GOP backing almost certainly would fail to deliver on their party’s promises and could lead to a revolt from the left.

The criticism is growing louder by the day, underscoring the growing tension within the ranks as moderates urge their colleagues to show patience and as Democratic leaders struggle to find a deal that can pass the 50-50 Senate and please the various factions within their party.

“Let’s face it. It’s time to move forward,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, told CNN on the talks with the bipartisan group. “The Republicans have held us up long enough.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal added: “I have no confidence that this bipartisan group will reach a deal. They should have a limited time to do so. I really think it’s time to pull the plug now and take action promptly and robustly … I worry about time being wasted.”

“We simply do not have the time to waste,” the Connecticut Democrat said.

The public rebuke is happening even as the White House and Senate Democratic leaders are giving negotiators from both parties time to see if they can cut a deal, with a bipartisan group of 10 senators saying Thursday they had reached an agreement “on a comprehensive framework” and it would be “fully paid for and not include tax increases.”

But the details still need to be written and face a tough task in winning enough support to become law.

Democratic leaders say they are pursuing Biden’s massive infrastructure and social safety net package along both bipartisan and partisan tracks. As the bipartisan talks continue, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is preparing to begin the budget process next month, setting the stage for advancing a bill along straight party lines, something that can only succeed if all 50 Democrats endorse such a process known as reconciliation.

“We are on two tracks: A bipartisan track and a reconciliation track, and both of them are moving forward,” Schumer told CNN Thursday.

Yet a number of Democrats say that whatever bipartisan deal moves forward is unlikely to win wide backing within their caucus.

“I think it’s been very clear to those negotiators, that we are rooting them on, but that there is no guarantee that you can get 50 Democratic votes for the package they produce,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut warned.

In particular, Democrats are raising concerns about how the package will be paid for — as Republican senators say that there would be no tax hikes and as Democrats have demanded new taxes on corporations and high-income earners to pay for the plan. But the bipartisan group is instead looking at redirecting already-enacted Covid-19 relief money, while raising the gas tax subject to inflation — ideas that a number of Democrats flatly oppose.

Asked about Republicans’ refusal to raise taxes to help pay for the plan, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono said, “I totally disagree with” it.

The divisions underscore not just political differences within the Democratic caucus, but also regional ones. Many of the lawmakers in the bipartisan group hail from states outside of the Northeast corridor where residents rely heavily on rail and mass transit.

“I get worried when I see groups of senators that don’t include members from the Northeast corridor that really care about making sure that we dramatically change transit times,” Murphy said.

Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said that he’s “certain” that the bipartisan talks won’t produce “what I believe we have to do for the people of Pennsylvania,” calling for enacting both Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan and $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan.

But Democrats have a problem: They don’t have consensus to pass such a massive bill along straight party lines, as moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona push to pursue bipartisan talks instead.

“Right now we don’t have the votes to do that,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who is also engaged in the bipartisan talks, said when asked if she’d back a Democrat-only approach through the reconciliation process.

“I say, let’s give it a little more time,” said Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats. “The legislative process was designed to be slow and cumbersome.”

With Biden traveling through Europe during a critical moment in his presidency, the White House has said the President will be amendable to phone calls while he’s abroad. Much of the input from the White House is expected to come from aides who stayed behind, including White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and director of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell.

On the Republican side, members of the bipartisan group briefed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday with GOP members telling reporters that McConnell signaled he was “open” to letting the talks play out.

“Mitch McConnell yesterday said he was open to it. That’s a good next step,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana, who is part of the group trying to hash out a bipartisan deal.

Other Republican leaders, however, have expressed doubt that any deal reached could garner the 10 Republicans needed to overcome a filibuster attempt.

Senate GOP Whip John Thune of South Dakota and Texas Sen. John Cornyn said that the amount of spending proposed would have to adhere close to what Republican negotiators already offered Biden — roughly $300 billion in new money and $1 trillion in overall spending — to garner widespread backing in the Republican conference. That number, however, was already rejected by the White House.

“I think he thinks he is going to get a better deal,” Cornyn said of Biden’s ongoing talks with a new set of Republicans. “But there is nothing that says whatever this group agrees to other Republicans are going to support. To me that is the flaw to this sort of approach.”

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That talk has liberals concerned that 10 Republicans are unlikely to back any deal — even one that some of their members endorse.

“No,” Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said when asked if would support the bipartisan group’s potential agreement.

“In my view, now is the time to finally stand up for the working families of this country. Black and White, Latino, Native American, Asian American, that is what we have got to do,” Sanders said. “If your question is: Do I think there are 10 Republicans who are prepared to do that? No, I do not.”

News Source: mercurynews.com

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Officials: Deadly Pride parade crash appears unintentional

By Kelli Kennedy | Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A member of a men’s chorus group unintentionally slammed into fellow chorists at the start of a Pride parade in South Florida, killing one member of the group and seriously injuring another, the group’s director said Sunday, correcting initial speculation that it was a hate crime directed at the gay community.

Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Paul Rolli and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said the early investigation shows it was an accident. The 77-year-old driver was taken into custody, but police said no charges have been filed and the investigation is ongoing.

The elderly driver had ailments that prevented him from walking, according to a statement Sunday from Fort Lauderdale Police, who said he was cooperating with the investigation and there was no evidence drugs or alcohol was involved.

“The early investigation now indicates it looks like it was a tragic accident, but nobody’s saying finally what it is,” Rolli told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The driver and the victims were a part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family, a small 25-member group of mostly older men.

“Our fellow Chorus members were those injured and the driver is also a part of the Chorus family. To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” President Justin Knight said in a statement Sunday, calling it “an unfortunate accident.”

Rolli was on the float in front of the chorus truck along with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and other city officials at a staging area where the floats were being readied. Trantalis said the driver of a pickup truck suddenly accelerated when he was told he was next in the parade, crashing into the victims.

The driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into a fence on the other side of the street, police said.

Rolli was on the other side of the float and didn’t witness the crash, but jumped off immediately and ran to the victims. In the confusion, it was unclear what happened.

“People were really distraught and some people were crying,” said Rolli, who explained that the crash happened in an area where the floats were lining up, so there weren’t as many parade-goers. “I was getting phone calls from people I knew at the other end waiting for the parade saying, ‘Is this true? Is that true, do we have anything to worry about?’ You don’t know at that point.”

Fort Lauderdale Police said no arrests have been made saying they are conducting a thorough investigation with the FBI, nothing in a statement they are “considering and evaluating all possibilities.”

Trantalis, who is Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor, initially told reporters the act was deliberate, adding to the confusion Saturday night.

“It terrorized me and all around me … I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he said in a Twitter statement Sunday. “As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control.”

Wilton Manors is a tight-knit community near Fort Lauderdale with a vibrant downtown filled with cute shops, where people line up for Rosie’s famous hamburgers or to gossip and drink at Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar.

Photos and video from the scene showed Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in tears while in a convertible at the parade.

In a statement Saturday night, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost.”

“I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”

A spokesman for the chorus said the director did not want to give interviews, adding that many members of the small group witnessed the fatal crash and were deeply shaken.

“The reason people like Wilton manors is the whole community is one big family and that’s how we treat each other … and this has really rattled a lot of people,” said Rolli. “Even if it’s an accident, just the loss of a life.”

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June is Pride Month, commemorating a June 1969 uprising that followed a police raid targeting gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York. It was a catalyst for the gay rights movement.

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