Senate pushes for infrastructure bill passage

Late Sunday, Senators lifted the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill over another hurdle. A coalition of Democrats and Republicans was pushing it closer towards passage despite some holdouts trying derail one President Joe Biden's top priorities.

Senate pushes for infrastructure bill passage

It was a sign of the bill's popularity, and the eagerness of senators back home to prove they can deliver, that the rare bipartisan momentum held steady. The package is one of the largest investments in its type in years and promises billions of dollars for upgrades to roads, bridges, broadband Internet, water pipes, and other public works systems that underpin the nation.

On a vote of just 68-29, the senators defeated another hurdle of 60 votes. Final votes could drag into Tuesday morning as one GOP senator, Tennessee's Bill Hagerty refused to give up on mandatory debate time.

As the Senate struggled through its second weekend session, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), stressed to his colleagues that they can choose the "easy or the difficult way."

Schumer stated, "We'll continue to proceed until we get the bill done."

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden called a "historical investment" in public work programs, would be the first step of President Obama's rebuilding agenda. For a strong final count, up to 20 Republicans could join Democrats in the evenly divided Senate. It would be approved by the House.

"We are on the cusp to seeing that move through Senate," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated on Fox News Sunday, citing "a remarkable alliance" that includes labor, business and lawmakers from both political parties. "I believe we are about to get it done."

Once voting wraps up, senators immediately will turn to the budget outline for a $3.5 trillion package of child care, elder care and other programs that is a much more partisan undertaking and expected to draw only Democratic support.

Despite all the momentum, action slowed down over the weekend as Hagerty (an ally of Donald Trump) forced the Senate's hand on debate time and refused to allow it to be accelerated.

Hagerty was Trump's ambassador in Japan and led the effort to spend as much time as possible to amend and debate the bipartisan bill. This is partly because he wants slow down the march towards Biden's next big bill which will allocate $3.5 trillion to child care and expand Medicare for seniors.

Trump called Hagerty Sunday morning, according to a person who was familiar with the conversation and requested anonymity to discuss it. Hagerty stated later in Sunday's speech to the Senate floor that he wanted to stop a "socialist Debt Bomb" of new government spending.

Although he has publicly criticized the bipartisan bill, and Biden and the senators of both parties who supported it, it is unclear if Trump's broadsides would have much influence with Republican senators. In a Sunday statement, he praised Hagerty for his stand.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has allowed the bill's progress despite Trump's name-calling. McConnell stated, "This is a compromise."

The weekend standoff continued, and Republicans who were involved in the negotiation of the compromise spoke out Sunday praising the former president for starting infrastructure talks while he was at the White House, even though those bills did not pan out.

Sen. Senator Rob Portman, Ohio's lead Republican negotiator said that it was time to upgrade the nation's public work systems.

He stated that the American people should have roads and bridges that are safe and reliable for them to travel and drive.

Senator Mitt Romney (Republican from Utah) was another negotiator. He acknowledged that there is no perfect compromise, but that it was impossible to do nothing when there was an act before them.

He said, "Every president of the modern era had proposed an infrastructure package." "This was an attempt to break the logjam."

Biden was in Delaware for the weekend and said that the bipartisan package is an equal investment to the construction of the transcontinental railroad, or interstate highway system.

The past week has seen senators process nearly two dozen amendments for the 2,700-page package. However, none of them have significantly changed the framework.

As senators attempt to amend a section about cryptocurrency, a long-term effort by defensehawks to increase $50 billion for defense-related infrastructure and to repurpose some of the COVID-19 relief assistance that was sent to the States, more amendments were offered. It is not clear if these amendments will be put to a vote.

The bill has been well received by senators. It is not perfect for liberals who consider it too small or conservatives who consider it too big. It would allow federal money to be used for projects that many cities and states could not afford.

The Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the bill raised concerns, especially from Republicans. It concluded that the legislation would increase deficits by about $256 billion over the next decade.

Backers of the bill argued that the budget bureau was not able to account for certain revenue streams, including future economic growth. The budget office released additional analysis Saturday that suggested infrastructure spending could increase productivity overall and lower the final costs.

After Democrats opposed an increase in gas tax at the pump, and Republicans resisting a plan to boost the IRS to pursue tax scofflaws, the payment for the package was a key point during months of negotiations.

Biden's larger package of $3.5 trillion, which would have been paid for by higher corporate tax rates and the wealthy, is not funded by the bipartisan package. Instead, it is funded by repurposing existing money, including untapped COVID-19 assistance and other spending cuts.

The House is currently in recess, and will likely consider both Biden infrastructure package when it returns to September.

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