- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Senate worked into the night Sunday on President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, heading toward passage early this week in a debate that is pitting the president against former President Donald Trump.

In a 68-29 vote, the Senate advanced the 2,702-page bill after weeks of negotiations. The package’s consistent bipartisan support was evidenced by 18 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats to overcome the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold.

“It’s a win for Republicans, and it’s a win for Biden, it’s a win for Democrats,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who helped craft the deal. “It’s a win for the Senate to say we can work together, that we’ve been able to overcome partisan differences to do something that’s right for America.”

With the filibuster overcome, the Senate will hold 50 hours of debate on the bill before a final vote Tuesday. Until then, the Senate will hold a marathon voting session in which lawmakers will be allowed to introduce unlimited amendments.

In those final hours, senators are expected to come to an agreement on cryptocurrency regulations and how to fund the bill fully. An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that more than half of the package’s $550 billion in new spending is unfunded.

“These are word salads that, if you stopped 100 people at the mall in Fargo or Bismarck, [North Dakota], 99 wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican, lambasting the CBO’s conclusions. “But this is what we’re trapped with here, this archaic process.”

In recent days, Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump have been vocal about the bill.

Mr. Trump, whom many still view as the leader of the Republican Party, has castigated the measure at every turn. The former president has even threatened to withhold support from any Republican who votes for passage.

“It will be very hard for me to endorse anyone foolish enough to vote in favor of this deal,” Mr. Trump said in a statement Saturday. “Whether it’s the House or the Senate, think twice before you approve this terrible deal.”

Mr. Biden made a last-minute push in favor of the deal Saturday as lawmakers prepared to act.

“The bipartisan infrastructure deal is a historic, once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure,” said Mr. Biden. “It will create good-paying, union jobs repairing our roads and bridges, replacing lead pipes and building energy transmission lines.”

The pressure that both presidents are exerting on their parties is unprecedented for a congressional vote. For many, the head-to-head brawl is a precursor to a potential 2024 rematch.

Both men are expected to further lobby lawmakers before the final vote.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, sought to expedite consideration of the bill. 

Instead of having the 50-hour debate with unlimited changes, Mr. Schumer worked out a deal with Republicans to consider only two-dozen amendments.

“I said yesterday we could do this the easy way or the hard way,” Mr. Schumer said. “In any case, we’ll keep proceeding until we get this bill done.”

For the maneuver to succeed, all 100 members of the Senate had to acquiesce. Sen. Bill Hagerty, Tennessee Republican, refused.

The first-term senator told The Washington Times that it would have been improper to move forward with limited debate, given the flaws evidenced in the bill.

“I wasn’t elected by the people of Tennessee to be the most popular person in the Senate. I was elected to stand up for their interests,” Mr. Hagerty said. 

“I can’t, in good conscience, vote to accelerate a flawed bill that puts us another quarter of a trillion-plus in debt, especially when we haven’t had an opportunity to dig in and understand its substance or economic ramifications,” he said.

Complicating matters is that Mr. Schumer plans to pass a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill immediately after the infrastructure package is approved.

The much-larger legislation, which Democrats have dubbed “human infrastructure,” contains a slew of liberal priorities, including climate change regulations and amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Because those provisions are unlikely to garner Republican support, Democrats plan to pass it along party lines via budget reconciliation. 

The process allows spending measures to avoid the Senate’s 60-vote hurdle and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes. 

“Democrats’ true intention is to rush this [infrastructure] bill through so that they can hurry up and light the fuse on their $3.5 trillion spending spree, a socialist debt bomb, then leave town for vacation,” Mr. Hagerty said. 

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