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Week In Politics: Biden Announces Infrastructure Deal, But More Obstacles Lay Ahead


The underpinnings of America's roads and bridges, tunnels and railways - that's what a group of Democratic and Republican senators say they want to repair, along with expanding broadband internet. President Biden agrees. So you'd think it would be a done deal. Well, let's start there with NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving, who joins us now. Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So Biden says he has a deal, but it's not a done deal. Where do things stand this weekend?

ELVING: Stand might be a little strong as a term. This is a deal with its feet firmly planted in midair at this point. There was a deal earlier in the week, as you say, and it seemed on the brink of unraveling on Friday. And now, Biden has to thread a very fine needle here. He has to get at least 10 Republicans in the Senate, but he can't afford to lose even one Senate Democrat in the process. And, of course, there's no actual bill yet, no legislative language. There is only a framework built around billions of dollars in big boxcar amounts, like 109 billion for roads and highways, 65 more for broadband build-outs, 49 for transit systems, 7.5 - and these are all billions now - for charging stations for electrical vehicles. And those are the priorities in this deal at this point.

FADEL: So what about all the other things the Biden administration and congressional Democrats say they want? After all, this is the same week Republicans blocked a voting rights bill that was very important to Democrats, right?

ELVING: Yes. And you're right to bring that up at this point. Let's be very clear on that. This was not a bill - the voting rights bill - this was not a bill that failed or stalled. It was blocked by a filibuster, a united minority party defeating the majority will. And that dynamic would apply for the infrastructure package, too. So to beat that, Biden's deal left out a lot of what Biden himself had promised the progressives in his own party - spending to address climate change and health care and a plan to pay for it mostly by collecting more from corporations and wealthy individuals. So Biden had told progressives he wouldn't abandon these things for the sake of an infrastructure bill. And when he renewed that pledge to them this week after the deal was announced, the Republicans objected and threatened to pull out.

FADEL: So what about this acknowledgement from the Trump Organization's lawyer that New York is considering criminal charges against the former president's company?

ELVING: More politics here, of course. The lawyers in this case are talking. Some of them seem to be talking. And it appears at least some of them are leaking to the media, putting pressure on some of the potential witnesses in the case and defendants to testify in exchange for some kind of a plea agreement. So we're still basically reading tea leaves here and waiting to see what develops next week.

FADEL: So let's shift to - the Supreme Court is winding down its current term. Lots of big cases so far involving the Affordable Care Act, farmworkers union, NCAA athletes. What else is left for the court to rule on and when?

ELVING: There are five remaining cases we are watching. One is about what's left of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court has already cut back rather severely. The other is also about elections, especially the ways in which big donors can keep their identities secret by giving to certain kinds of organizations. We should see those decisions next week.

FADEL: That's NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thank you so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for