Senate Moves Forward With Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, A Key Priority For Joe Biden – Update

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., center, joined from left by, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speak to reporters just after a vote to start work on a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

2ND UPDATE, 4:18 PM: The Senate voted Wednesday to move forward with a key priority for Joe Biden — a massive bipartisan infrastructure package.

Even with a procedural vote of 67-32, the bill faces not just final approval in the Senate but buy-in from the House. That’s where progressives want their deal tied to a concurrent move to pass a $3.5 trillion budget package that would expand Medicare, clean energy and child care. After the Senate vote, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he would move to bring that budget resolution to the floor.

“My goal,” he said, “remains to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution during this work period. Both. It might take some long nights. It might lead into our weekends. But we are going to get the job done, and we are on track.”

The legislation passed with 17 Republicans joining with Democrats, even as former President Donald Trump urged his party to reject it.

But the 10 senators who forged the agreement took a victory lap afterward.

“This is what is bringing America together, knowing we can do something that has been needed for so long,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

“We’re going to get it done,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). “We took the first important step tonight. There are of course additional challenges ahead. I recognize that. But it would not be happening were it not for a team effort.”

Another member of the group, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), told the Arizona Republican that she does not support the $3.5 trillion budget package, complicating Schumer’s efforts to pursue the two-tracks to pass a bipartisan bill and the much bigger package via a budget reconciliation process. The latter is viewed as essential to winning over progressive Democrats in the House.

One of those progressives, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), reacted to Sinema’s statement. “Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin – especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a ‘bipartisan accomplishment,'” she wrote on Twitter.

UPDATED, 1:04 PM PT: President Joe Biden praised a $550 billion bipartisan package as “the most significant long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.”

“Of course, neither side got everything they wanted in this deal,” he said. “But that’s what it means to compromise and forge consensus—the heart of democracy. As the deal goes to the entire Senate, there is still plenty of work ahead to bring this home. There will be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to forge along the way.”

PREVIOUSLY: The Senate may vote as early as Wednesday night on advancing long-in-the-works legislation for a massive infrastructure package, as Republicans and President Joe Biden confirmed that a deal had been reached.

“I was just on the phone, it looks like we reached a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure,” Biden said during a speech in Pennsylvania.

The deal includes $550 billion in new spending, including $110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, $11 billion for transportation safety, $39 billion for public transit, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $7.5 billion to build out electric vehicle chargers, $7.5 billion for electric buses, $42 billion for ports and airports, $50 billion for water infrastructure and weatherization, $55 billion to improve drinking water, $21 billion in environmental remediation and $73 billion to upgrade power grids and lines. It also provides $65 billion to build out high-speed internet, with recipients required to offer low cost service plans.

In his speech, Biden called “infrastructure” a “fancy word for bridges roads, transit systems, high speed internet and clean drinking water.”

The White House said that the plan would be paid for via unspent emergency relief funds, strengthening tax enforcement of crypto currencies and other measures, as well as the increased tax revenue via higher economic growth. But the plan has yet to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which calculates the estimated cost of legislation to the federal government.

The president marked the deal last month after a meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, but as the details have been hashed out, the agreement appeared to be on life support. If the Senate and House ultimately pass the latest version of the deal, it will mark a key accomplishment for Biden, who not only proposed such massive new investments, but put his faith in the idea that common ground could be reached between the parties at a time of hyper polarization.

“I’m working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done because while there is a lot we don’t agree on, I believe we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on,” Biden said.

Earlier on Wednesday, after meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told reporters that an agreement had been reached on major issues. Portman has been the lead negotiator for Republicans on a bipartisan committee set up to try to come to a deal.

For the deal to move forward, 60 senators will have to vote to move it forward and overcome a filibuster threat. If it ultimately passes the Senate, it then would require a House vote.

Democrats also are planning to move forward on a budget resolution, with the aim to pass a $3.5 trillion package to expand Medicare, universal pre-kindergarten, clean energy initiatives and lower cost prescription drugs. It would be financed in part by higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations. The package of new spending would go through a more complicated budget reconciliation process, requiring a simple majority in the Senate to pass. Democrats also would not be able to lose many members in the House, where they have a slim 220-211 majority.

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