After much delay, senators unveiled a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, wrapping up days of painstaking work on the inches-thick bill and launching what is certain to be a lengthy debate over President Joe Biden’s big priority.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was approximately 2,700 pages long. Senators may soon begin amending it. The bill was passed Sunday night, despite the rush-up-and wait during a rare weekend session. However, emotions rose to the surface. The final product did not depart from the outline that senators had been working on for weeks with White House.
Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stated that “we haven’t done large, bipartisan bills of this nature for a long time.” He stated that a final vote could take place “in a matter days.”
A key part of Biden’s agenda, the bipartisan bill is the first phase of the president’s infrastructure plan. The bill calls for $550 million in additional spending over five years, above the projected federal levels. This could be the largest expenditure on roads, bridges and waterworks in years.
The bill was written by senators and staff over several days. The bill was supposed to be completed by Friday. However, more errors were discovered and modifications made on Sunday. Schumer kept the senators in session to encourage the authors to complete their work over the weekend.
To mark the moment, the Senate floor was filled with 10 of the senators who were involved in the bipartisan effort late Sunday night.
“We are aware that this has been an extended and sometimes difficult process,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a lead negotiator. She said that the bill demonstrated “we can put aside political differences for the benefit of the country.”
Senator Sen. Ohio’s Rob Portman said that the final product would be “great for America.”
Over the long weekend of starts and stops, Schumer repeatedly warned that he was prepared to keep lawmakers in Washington for as long as it took to complete votes on both the bipartisan infrastructure plan as well as a budget blueprint that would allow the Senate to begin work later this year on a massive, $3.5 trillion social, health and environmental bill.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) predicted that it would be “a grind.”
The bipartisan package will provide $110 billion in new investments for roads and bridges, $39Billion for public transit, and $66Billion for rail. The bipartisan package will provide $55 billion to fund water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as billions of dollars for airports, ports and electric vehicle charging stations.
This spending is popular with lawmakers. It brings capital to long-delayed states and cites that they can’t afford.
After senators rejected proposals to increase revenue through a new gas tax, or other streams, it has proved difficult to pay for the package. It is instead being funded from funding sources that may not be acceptable to deficit hawks. These include repurposing $205 billion of untapped COVID-19 relief assistance, as well unemployment assistance that was turned down by some states, and relying upon projected future economic growth.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) stated that “I have real concerns about this bill.”
The process was aided by bipartisan support from Republican senators and Democratic senators. Schumer wanted to wrap up the voting before the senators leave for August recess.
Last week, 17 GOP senators voted with all Democrats to begin work on the bipartisan bill. This support was largely maintained, with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voting yes in another procedural vote. This vote was to push the process forward in the 50-50 Senate. 60 votes are required to defeat a filibuster and advance legislation.
Whether the number of Republican senators willing to pass the bill grows or shrinks in the days ahead will determine if the president’s signature issue can make it across the finish line.
Cornyn stated that he expected Schumer to give all senators a chance to shape the bipartisan bill, and to allow amendments from both sides.
Cornyn stated, “I hope that we can now put the brakes on a bit and take the time to assess the benefits and costs of this legislation.”
Although the bipartisan bill faces some challenges in the House, progressive lawmakers are looking for a stronger package. However, they may have to accept this one in order to keep Biden’s infrastructure plans on track.
The bipartisan effort’s outcome will be the starting point for the debate about Biden’s $3.5 trillion package. This is a strictly partisan pursuit to far-reaching programs, services, and tax breaks that impact almost every aspect of American life. Republicans strongly oppose the bill. It would need a simple majority to pass. Final votes on this measure will not be taken until the fall.