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Senate Passes $1.2 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

August 10, 2021 by Dan McCue
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal on Tuesday, handing President Joe Biden a significant win for his top legislative priority. 

“This is what it looks like when elected leaders take a step toward healing our country’s divisions rather than feeding those very divisions,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the lead Democratic negotiator of the bill, shortly before the voting began Tuesday morning.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the lead Republican negotiator, called the legislation “a lasting bipartisan achievement to help the people we represent.”

“It’s going to improve the lives of all Americans,” he said.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, another of the bipartisan negotiators, said after the vote that elected officials have talked about addressing the nation’s aging infrastructure for decades.

“The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that passed out of the Senate today turns that talk into reality,” Romney said. “While this bill is not perfect—as is the case with a true compromise—it provides a once-in-a-generation investment in our country’s physical infrastructure without raising taxes. That is what people and communities across the country demanded of us.”

Vice President Kamala Harris announced the final vote, 69 to 30.

The bill is now heading to the House, where it faces an uncertain future and skepticism from progressives. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has repeatedly said she won’t take it up until the Senate passes the second part of its infrastructure legislation, a sweeping $3.5 trillion spending package which the chamber’s Democrats intend to pass through reconciliation, which will shield it from a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he intends to move immediately to take up the budget blueprint, unveiled on Monday, that would put Congress on track to pass that larger package.

That package includes policies that would have doomed passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package, including measures to address climate change, health, education and paid leave. 

It will also include a variety of tax increases, provisions sure to be opposed by the senate’s Republicans.

Despite Schumer’s assurances that he will move quickly on the second bill, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has warned Pelosi that a majority of its 96 members will withhold their support for the legislation until the second package clears the reconciliation process.

Meanwhile, moderate Democrats in the House, including Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, are circulating a letter to Pelosi calling for a swift vote on the bipartisan deal.

On Tuesday, Gottheimer, and his fellow Problem Solvers Caucus co-chair, Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., released a joint statement that said, “we applaud Senators on both sides of the aisle for their leadership and commitment to building consensus on a historic package that invests in our nation’s physical infrastructure needs. 

“This legislation will create jobs, enhance economic growth and competitiveness, improve the health and safety of the American people, and modernize our infrastructure for the 21st century, without raising taxes,” they said.

“The Problem Solvers Caucus has worked closely with our Senate allies over these past months to help turn the bipartisan infrastructure framework into legislation. The Senate did its job. Now it’s time to build on this momentum and expeditiously take up the infrastructure bill in the House with a stand-alone bipartisan vote,” Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick continued.

“This will deliver a win for every American and show the nation, and world, that we have Members in both parties who are united in working together to solve problems in Washington,” they said.

Reps. Tom O’Halleran, of Arizona, Ed Case, of Hawaii, Stephanie Murphy, of Florida, Abigail Spanberger, of Virginia, and Kurt Schrader, of Oregon, co-chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats, said in a statement that “the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a landmark piece of legislation that will deliver the largest long-term investment in our nation’s infrastructure in nearly a century, and it will ensure our nation can remain at the cutting edge of international competition. 

“From ensuring every American can connect to high-speed internet to fixing our crumbling roads and bridges, this bipartisan bill will deliver much needed results from rural to urban America,” they continued. “Now that the Senate has done its job, we reiterate our call for House leadership to follow suit and bring the bipartisan infrastructure legislation to the House floor for a vote as a standalone bill as quickly as possible. 

“The Co-Chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition remain opposed to any effort to unnecessarily delay consideration of these critical infrastructure investments, which will create good-paying jobs, keep American businesses competitive, and grow our nation’s economy. The House should move now to deliver this legislation to President Biden’s desk for his signature and give the American people the results they need and deserve,” they said.

After the Senate vote, Pelosi said, “Today is a day of progress, as the Senate has passed the bipartisan infrastructure package and paved the way for not only rebuilding but reimagining our infrastructure for the 21st Century Economy. 

“The leadership of President Biden has seized this once-in-a-century opportunity to Build Back Better for our country. This bipartisan package helps rebuild the middle class as it rebuilds our infrastructure – creating good-paying American jobs and turbocharging American competitiveness and growth.

“The House will continue to work with the Senate to ensure that our priorities for the people are included in the final infrastructure and reconciliation packages, in a way that is resilient and will Build Back Better,” she concluded.

Regardless of the way forward, the Senate’s passage of the bipartisan package on Tuesday is a victory for Biden and centrists on Capitol Hill.

The bipartisan deal includes roughly $550 billion in new funding for projects ranging from roads and bridges to broadband and rail.

Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would add $256 billion to the deficit, though Sinema and Portman argued most of the infrastructure projects will ultimately pay for themselves and the CBO is limited in what it can include in its formal score.

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