- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Senate voted to advance President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package on Wednesday, only hours after a bipartisan group of lawmakers finalized the deal. 

In a 67-32 vote, the chamber advanced the bill in a crucial test vote. The legislation cleared the 60-vote hurdle with 17 Republicans joining all 50 Senate Democrats.

The pace was quicker than the usually plodding Senate as lawmakers prepared to leave Washington for a month-long summer break.

“I’ve said for weeks that we intend to move two things in July,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said of the infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion package of social welfare programs.

Mr. Schumer‘s ability to also reach a deal on the $3.5 trillion package, however, was thrown into doubt when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona Democrat, withdrew her support because of the huge price tag.

The majority leader moved toward a vote on the infrastructure bill shortly after President Biden and a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators announced a formal agreement. Roughly $550 billion in the $1.2 trillion package would come from new revenue.

More than $110 billion of the new funding would go to roads, bridges and other major projects. More than $40 billion is earmarked for upgrades to airports, waterways and seaports, and more than $55 billion would go to clean water infrastructure, according to an outline of the deal.

The package reflected the priorities of both Democrats and Republicans. Republicans secured more than $65 billion to expand broadband access, especially in rural areas. Democrats got $39 billion for public transit on top of a $66 billion investment in Amtrak.

“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver and do big things,” Mr. Biden said. “As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”

A big selling point for Republicans is that the package accounts for new funding without raising taxes.

“This is entirely paid for with real money. … It’s all real cash paying for the deal,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who helped craft the package.

As such, the deal is likely to garner sufficient support from Republicans to overcome a likely filibuster. To succeed in the Senate, at least 10 Republicans need to join all 50 Democrats to vote for the measure.

Support for the deal came from several Republicans who were not involved in the negotiations and are strong allies of their party’s leadership.

“I am comfortable, at this point, voting yes on the motion to proceed to the measure because I think we need to continue the debate on it and look at opportunities to amend it if it needs amending,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who wasn’t part of the negotiating team. “While I can’t say I am going to vote for final passage yet, at this point I think the motion to proceed is appropriate.”

Although the Senate is expected to approve Mr. Schumer’s motion, the package still faces major hurdles.

Senior Democrats, notably committee chairs, are bristling at being cut out of the deal. Many have waited more than a decade for their party to control both the White House and Congress, only to have a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers take away their hopes of participating in big infrastructure projects.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, Oregon Democrat, has said he won’t be a “rubber stamp” for the bipartisan deal. Sources say Mr. DeFazio hopes to amend the bill when it comes to the House to make it more palatable for Democrats.

Further complicating matters is that Democratic leaders have tied the infrastructure package to a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill.

The bigger legislation, which is packed with liberal priorities, is set to pass without Republican votes in a process known as budget reconciliation. It allows some spending and tax measures in order to avoid the 60-vote threshold needed to get past a filibuster and pass with 51 votes.

To succeed, Mr. Schumer needs all 50 Senate Democrats unified and Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tiebreaking vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has pledged not to move the bipartisan infrastructure deal before reconciliation.

It is not clear how Mrs. Pelosi would respond if moderate Democrats in the Senate help kill the big-spending reconciliation package. That scenario became real Wednesday when Ms. Sinema said she wouldn’t vote for it.

“I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion. And in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona’s economy and help Arizona’s everyday families get ahead,” Ms. Sinema said.

While backing off the reconciliation bill, Ms. Sinema remained supportive of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. She has been a key member of the bipartisan negotiating team.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, the self-described socialist from Vermont who chairs the Budget Committee, directly linked the fates of the two bills.

“It is my absolute conviction that you’re not going to have a bipartisan bill unless you have a reconciliation bill of $3.5 trillion,” he said. “The working families of this country, the children of this country the elderly people of this country deserve to have their needs met, and we intend to do just that.”

• Kery Murakami contributed to this report.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide