On Saturday, the Senate met for a rare weekend session. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer encouraged bipartisan infrastructure plan authors to complete their bill so senators can start offering amendments.
Many senators predicted that the bill’s text would be available for review by Friday night or Saturday morning, but it wasn’t. Schumer acknowledged that writing a bill this large is a complex task, but warned that he was ready to keep the lawmakers in Washington until they had completed votes on the bipartisan infrastructure plan as well as a budget blueprint. This would allow the Senate’s work on the massive $3.5 trillion environmental, social, and health bill later in the year.
Schumer stated that “the longer it takes, the longer we’ll be here, but the job will get done,”
This bipartisan plan also has a large budget, adding $550 billion to existing highway and public works funds over five years. The total cost of the bill is almost $1 trillion when you add the expected spending in these accounts over the next five year. The draft bill circulated on Capitol Hill suggested it could contain more than 2,500 pages at its introduction. It is being funded from funding sources that may not be acceptable to deficit hawks. This includes repurposing COVID-19 relief assistance and relying upon projected future economic growth.
The major investments include $110 billion in roads and bridges, $39 Billion for public transit, and $66 Billion for rail. $55 billion is allocated to water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as billions of dollars for airports, ports and broadband internet.
It was helped by a bipartisan group senators Friday, and they hoped that support would continue during the next few days’ of debate and attempts to amend it.
Schumer wants to wrap up the voting before senators go on their August recess.
Schumer stated Friday night that while we might need to wait until the weekend, and we may vote on a few amendments, but with the help of our Republican colleagues, I believe the bipartisan infrastructure bill can be completed in a matter days.
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) predicted that it would be “a grind.”
Friday was a chaotic start to the effort. The Senate had just begun the procedural vote when it was abruptly stopped. Cornyn explained that the reason for the stoppage was because some of the text contained in the bill didn’t conform to the agreement reached between negotiators. This rare bipartisan work tests senators’ trustworthiness.
A few moments later, the vote was reopened and the effort to move on to consideration of the bill was passed with 66 to 28 votes.
This week, 17 GOP senators voted with all Democrats to begin the debate. It will launch a long process of examining the bill over the next few days. This support was largely maintained Friday with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voting again yes to push the process forward.
However, the future will decide if President Joe Biden’s signature issue is able to make it through the final hurdle. It will depend on whether or not the number of Republican senators are willing to pass the key component of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Cornyn stated that he expected Schumer to give all senators a chance to shape and accept amendments from both sides.
Cornyn stated that while I was disappointed that Senator Schumer tried to force us into voting on a bill which did not exist in its entirety. However, I hope that we can now take a step back and evaluate the costs and benefits of the legislation.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released statements on Friday stating that they were close to finalizing legislative text and would make it available later in the day. Friday was a day without any final paperwork.
“When the final legislative text that reflects our group’s product is completed, we will make it publicly together consistent with the bipartisan manner we’ve worked over the past four months,” said the senators.
The bipartisan effort’s outcome will be the starting point for the next debate about Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan. This is a strictly partisan pursuit to far-reaching programs, services, and tax breaks that impact almost every aspect of American life. Republicans are strongly opposed to the bill and would need a simple majority. They may attempt to block both.