Senate passes $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, sending key part of Biden's economic agenda to the House

5 months ago

The Senate passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan Tuesday, a huge step for Democrats as they try to push President Joe Biden's sweeping economic agenda through Congress.

The legislation, which includes $550 billion in new funding for transportation, broadband and utilities, got through in a 69-30 vote, as 19 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., immediately turned to a budget resolution that would allow Democrats to approve what they see as a complementary $3.5 trillion spending plan without Republican votes.

"Today, the Senate takes a decades overdue step to revitalize America's infrastructure and give our workers, our businesses, our economy, the tools to succeed in the 21st century," Schumer said Tuesday ahead of the final vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has stressed she will not take up the infrastructure bill or Democrats' separate proposal to expand the social safety net until the Senate passes both of them. The House does not return from recess until Sept. 20.

It could take months for Congress to pass both measures.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) emerges from the Senate chamber after the final passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill at the U.S. Capitol on August 10, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee | Getty Images

The bill's approval caps a months-long slog for the White House and both parties in Congress to forge a plan to refresh American roads, railways, public transit, water systems, power grids and broadband. Congress for years failed to agree on a comprehensive infrastructure plan, which supporters in both parties say will boost the economy and create jobs.

"The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will modernize and upgrade our roads, bridges, ports, and other key infrastructure assets," the 10 senators who crafted the bill, led by Republican Rob Portman of Ohio and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said in a statement Tuesday.

"In doing so, this landmark piece of legislation will create jobs, increase productivity, and pave the way for decades of economic growth and prosperity – all without raising taxes on everyday Americans or increasing inflation," they continued.

The GOP senators who supported the bill include those considered most likely to vote with Democrats — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — and conservatives from red states such as Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven of North Dakota and Jim Risch of Idaho. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., backed the legislation.

Democrats' push to pass their economic agenda could still fall apart. The infrastructure bill on its own appears to have enough Democratic and Republican support to coast through the House.

But to win over both centrists wary of a $3.5 trillion bill and progressives who want additional spending on child care, paid leave and climate policy, Pelosi has said she will not pass one bill without the other. In order to approve their plan through budget reconciliation without Republicans, Democrats cannot lose a single member of their 50-person Senate caucus, or more than a handful of representatives.

The Senate will next vote on a budget resolution in the coming days to unlock the reconciliation process.

He expects to start a so-called vote-a-rama — where the Senate considers an indefinite number of amendments to the resolution — as soon as Tuesday. The chamber plans to start its own recess once it passes the budget measure, and also is expected to return in mid-September.

Schumer has given committees a Sept. 15 target to finish writing their portions of the final legislation. The bill would then have to work its way through both chambers of Congress.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris presides over the U.S. Senate and announces the vote totals of 69 Yeas and 30 Nays as the Senate passes a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, as seen in a frame grab from video shot in the U.S. Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., August 10, 2021.

US Senate TV | Reuters

Centrists including Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have signaled they will vote for the budget resolution but try to trim the $3.5 trillion proposal. Republicans have started to hammer Democrats for the proposed spending and individual tax increases they hope to use to offset it.

McConnell on Tuesday called it a "reckless taxing and spending spree."

Biden and Democrats want a signature policy they can promote on the midterm campaign trail next year as they try to hold both chambers of Congress. Their plan is set to extend household tax credits and health-care subsidies passed during the coronavirus pandemic, lower the Medicare eligibility age and expand benefits and use tax credits, rebates and polluter fees to encourage the adoption of green energy.

The bipartisan bill is the first step. It puts $110 billion into roads, bridges and other major projects, $66 billion into passenger and freight rail, $65 billion into broadband, $55 billion into water systems and $39 billion into public transit, among other spending.

The Biden administration has pushed for its swift passage.

"My department is ready the moment this bill becomes law to start deploying these resources and getting them out to communities," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNBC's "The News With Shepard Smith" on Monday.

On Tuesday, Biden told reporters he would discuss infrastructure after the Senate vote finished.

Funding for the bipartisan bill will come from repurposed coronavirus relief money, unused federal unemployment insurance aid and spectrum auctions, among other sources. Republicans resisted Biden's proposal to hike the corporate tax rate to offset costs.

While senators have said the bill will be paid for, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Thursday that it would increase budget deficits by $256 billion over a decade. The report did not include the potential revenue boost from economic growth.

The infrastructure plan did not go far enough to address climate change or boost households for many progressives. A pocket of the party's liberal wing in the House — where the bill will go next — has criticized the size of the bipartisan bill and called for a robust reconciliation package.

Ahead of the Senate vote, Schumer aimed to assure progressives in Congress that the second plan would meet their demands.

"To my colleagues who are concerned that this does not do enough on climate, for families and making corporations and the rich pay their fair share: we are moving on to a second track which will make generational transformation in these areas," he said.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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