Senate work to pass infrastructure bill continues over weekend

U.S. Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-NY) looks up after reading a statement calling for the resignation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on August 3, 2021.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Senators will resume a weekend sitting in preparation for the adoption of a $ 1 trillion bipartite infrastructure package after running up against opposition from a few Republicans who want to drag final votes on one of President Joe Biden’s top priorities.

The measure would provide what Biden called a “historic investment” in public works programs, from roads and bridges to high-speed Internet access, clean water and more. In a rare bipartisan coup, Republicans joined Democrats in pushing forward with the measure and more votes are expected on Sunday. If approved, the bill will go to the House.

Despite the overwhelming support, momentum has dragged on as a few Republican senators refused to cede the required 30 hours of debate before the next round of procedural votes, which could delay the package’s swift passage and result in a drudgery of days.

“We can make it happen either the easiest way or the hard way,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y, said on Saturday. But as hours passed without any deal being reached to speed up the process of considering amendments and final votes, Schumer said senators would resume at noon on Sunday.

Senators were meeting for the second weekend in a row to work on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is the first of Biden’s two infrastructure packages. Once the vote is over, Senators will immediately move on to Biden’s next item of business, the budget overview for a $ 3.5 trillion package child care, senior care, and other programs that is a much more partisan endeavor and should only get support from Democrats.

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, center, speaks during a press conference with the House Problem Solvers Caucus outside the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, United States, Friday July 30, 2021.

Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Schumer pledged to keep Senators in session until they finish the bipartisan bill and launch the first votes on the next big package.

For some Republican senators, the back-to-back vote on Biden’s top priorities is what they’re trying to delay, in hopes of slowing or stopping what appears to be a steady march to meet the president’s infrastructure goals.

Senator Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., An ally of Donald Trump and the former president’s former ambassador to Japan, was among those leading the effort to get the Senate to take as long as needed to debate and amend the bill. of law.

“There is absolutely no reason to rush,” Hagerty said in a speech on Saturday.

Trump himself weighed in on including a statement on Saturday criticizing Biden, senators from both parties and the bill itself, though it is not clear whether the former president’s views prevail over legislators.

Biden urged senators to continue, saying the bipartisan package offered an investment comparable to building the transcontinental railroad or the interstate highway system. Vice President Kamala Harris has arrived on Capitol Hill for meetings on bipartisan legislation.

Overcoming the 60-vote hurdle was a sign that the tenuous alliance between Republicans and Democrats could hold on to the public works package. A total of 18 Republicans joined Democrats on the 67-27 vote to push the measure past a filibuster, a robust count.

Kentucky Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has so far allowed the bill to progress, in spite of the broadsides and the insults of the former president. His vote on Saturday – another “yes” – was closely watched. “It’s a compromise,” McConnell said.

Senators have spent the past week dealing with nearly two dozen amendments to the 2,700-page package, but so far none have significantly altered its framework.

Other amendments could be debated on Sunday with senators considering revisions to a section on cryptocurrency, a long-term effort by defense hawks to add $ 50 billion to defense-related infrastructure and a bipartisan amendment. to reallocate some of the untapped COVID-19 relief aid that had been sent to states.

For senators who have dragged themselves into debate – and months of give-and-take negotiations – the bipartisan bill is a chance not only to send federal dollars to their states, but also to show the country that members of Congress can work together in a bipartisan way to solve problems.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said her state’s needs were obvious – including money for water systems in remote villages without taps for washing hands during the COVID pandemic -19. But as a negotiator, she also wants to demonstrate that lawmakers can unite.

“I’m really worried that everyone thinks we’re as dysfunctional as we seem to be, and so to prove otherwise it’s pretty important,” she said. “The Senate needs demonstrated acts of bipartisanship.”

Senators have found much to like about the bill, although it does not fully satisfy the Liberals, who consider it too small, or the Conservatives, who find it too large. It would provide federal money for projects that many states and cities could not afford on their own.

Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., said: “America has not seen this type of infrastructure investment for 30 years.”

An analysis of the Congressional Budget Office bill has raised concerns, particularly from Republicans. It concluded that the law would increase deficits by about $ 256 billion over the next decade.

But supporters of the bill argued that the budget office was unable to take into account certain sources of revenue, including those from future economic growth. Additional analysis released by the budget office on Saturday suggested that overall infrastructure spending could increase productivity and lower ultimate costs.

The package payment has been a pressure point throughout months of negotiations after Democrats opposed an increase in the gasoline tax paid at the pump and Republicans resisted a plan to strengthen the IRS to prosecute tax evaders.

Unlike Biden’s larger $ 3.5 trillion package, which would be paid for by higher tax rates for businesses and the wealthy, the bipartisan package is funded by reallocating other funds, including COVID aid. -19 untapped, and other cuts in spending and revenue streams.

The House is on vacation and is expected to review the two Biden infrastructure packages when he returns in September.

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