- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday that a Senate working group is “just about finished” with a massive infrastructure bill and she’s confident the measure can attract enough Republicans to pass before the end of the week.

“That certainly is my expectation and my hope,” Ms. Collins, Maine Republican, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The $1.2 trillion package is a key part of President Biden’s agenda and pledge to notch bipartisan achievements. It includes billions for public transit, roadways, internet access and other upgrades.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said the text of the bill could be out by the end of Sunday.

“It’s just drafting right now,” he told CNN.

The bill needs at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster within the evenly split Senate. That means at least 10 Republican votes are needed with all 50 Democrats.

Former President Donald Trump, who many still view as the leader of the Republican Party, urged lawmakers to oppose the deal because Democratic leaders were linking it to a broader $3.5 trillion social welfare bill.

“The RINOs in the Senate are delivering a big win by caving to the radical Democrats on infrastructure,” Mr. Trump said Friday. “Once they pass this bill out of the Senate, it will sit in the House until they get steamrolled by the biggest government expansion in a generation.”  

Ms. Collins said each senator will make his or her own calculus but there are clear benefits in the package.

“This bill is good for America. Every senator can look at bridges and road and the need for broadband in their states,” Ms. Collins said. “My hope is that we’ll finish the bill by the end of the week.”

Mr. Manchin said he is hopeful the legislation will get through the full Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged not to move the bipartisan deal ahead of the bigger legislation that Democrats plan to pass under a “budget reconciliation” process that can avoid a Senate filibuster.

Mr. Manchin said every piece of legislation should pass on its “own merits.”

But Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, said federal investments can’t hinge on the whims of 10 lawmakers in the divided Senate while Democrats hold a House majority.

“We can’t just have one body driving the legislative agenda for the country,” she told CNN. “If there is not a reconciliation bill in the House and if the Senate does not pass a reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg declined to say whether Congress should settle for the bipartisan deal if the reconciliation bill runs into hiccups, as some moderate Democrats wince at the price tag of the “human infrastructure” measure and urge leadership to seal a win on physical infrastructure.

“The president has made clear that he supports them both and looks forward to signing them both,” Mr. Buttigieg told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. 

Haris Alic contributed to this report.

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