U.S. Senators unveiled a nearly $ 1 billion bipartisan infrastructure package after much delay, concluding days of painstaking work on the centimeter bill and starting what will certainly be a long debate on the top priority. by President Joe Biden.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was produced on Sunday evening and was some 2,700 pages long. Senators could start amending it soon. The end product was not intended to deviate from the broad lines that senators had negotiated for weeks with the White House.
“We haven’t made a big bipartisan bill of this nature for a long time,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. He said a final vote could take place “in a few days”.
A key part of Biden’s agenda, the bipartisan bill is the first phase of the president’s infrastructure plan. It calls for $ 550 billion in new spending over five years above projected federal levels, which could be one of the nation’s biggest spending on roads, bridges, water systems, broadband and the power grid for years.
Senators and staff worked behind the scenes for days drafting the massive bill. It was supposed to be ready on Friday, but on Sunday even more issues were detected and changes were made. Late Sunday, most of the 10 senators involved in the bipartisan effort rose to the Senate floor to mark the moment.
“We know it’s been a long and sometimes difficult process, but we’re proud to announce this legislation tonight,” said Arizona Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, chief negotiator. The bill showed that “we can put aside our own political differences for the good of the country,” she said.
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican negotiator, said the end product would be “great for the American people.”
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 takes to complete votes on the bipartisan infrastructure plan and a budget plan that would allow the Senate to start working later this year on a massive $ 3.5 billion social, health and environmental bill.
Among the major new investments, the bipartisan package is expected to provide $ 110 billion for roads and bridges, $ 39 billion for public transport and $ 66 billion for rail. There should also be $ 55 billion for water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as billions for airports, ports, high-speed internet and electric vehicle charging stations.
The spending is widely popular among lawmakers, bringing in long-delayed capital for big-ticket items that cities and states can rarely afford on their own.
Paying for the package has been a challenge after senators rejected ideas to raise revenue from a new gasoline tax or other streams. Instead, it is funded by funding sources that may not succeed with deficit hawks, including the reallocation of around $ 205 billion in untapped CovidOVID-19 emergency aid, as well as the unemployment aid which has been refused by some states and builds on expected future economic growth. .
“I have real concerns with this bill,” said Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah.
But bipartisan support from Republican and Democratic senators moved the process forward, and Schumer wanted the vote to end before the senators left for the August recess.
Last week, 17 GOP senators joined all Democrats to vote to start work on the bipartisan bill. That support has largely been maintained, with Senatorial Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, voting yes in another procedural vote to advance the process in the Senate at 50-50, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a obstruction and advancing legislation.
Whether the number of Republican senators willing to pass the bill increases or decreases in the coming days will determine whether the problem with the president’s signature can cross the finish line.
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn has said he expects Schumer to allow all senators the opportunity to shape the bipartisan bill and allow amendments from members of both parties.
“Hopefully we can now put the brakes on a bit and take the time and care to assess the benefits and costs of this legislation,” said Cornyn.
The bipartisan bill still faces a tough road in the House, where progressive lawmakers want a more robust package but may have to settle for it to keep Biden’s infrastructure plans on track.
The outcome of the bipartisan effort will set the stage for the next debate on Biden’s much more ambitious $ 3.5 billion package, a strictly partisan lawsuit championed by Democrats that includes “human infrastructure” programs and services. »Large-scale, including child care, tax breaks and health care. that touch almost every corner of American life. Republicans strongly oppose this bill, which would require a simple majority to pass. Final votes on this measure are not expected until the fall.