The Senate is poised to pass bipartisan legislation that would devote $550 billion in new spending to improve the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., took the floor Monday night to announce senators had reached an agreement to hold a final passage vote at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
“Well, it's taken quite a while, there have been a lot of bumps in the road,” Schumer said. “It has taken quite a long time and there have been detours and everything else, but this will do a whole lot of good for America and the Senate can be proud it has passed this.”
The legislation appears likely to pass with a healthy margin given Sunday night’s 68-29 vote to end debate on the measure. That vote had put the bill on a path to final passage vote shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday but senators agreed to instead hold the vote at the more humane time later in the morning.
Its passage will clear the way for the second piece of the Democrats’ two-track strategy: a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that embodies the meat of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda and is expected to garner only Democratic support.
Schumer said earlier in the day that there were doubters who questioned whether both measures could pass the Senate before lawmakers left town for the August recess.
“But we have managed to steer two trains at the same time,” Schumer said. “There have been some bumps, there have been some delays but the Senate is on track to finish both tracks.”
In addition to more traditional infrastructure needs, the bipartisan legislation would provide billions to speed Americans’ adoption of electric vehicles, bolster public transit systems, upgrade the nation’s power grid and improve access to broadband internet.
Portman took issue Monday with Democrats talking in the same breath about the infrastructure bill and the coming budget resolution, saying the latter represents a “tax and spending extravaganza.”
Portman said that in contrast, the infrastructure bill will benefit Americans by repairing and replacing the country’s important assets.
“In doing so, it does make life better for people, it improves the life of the mom or dad who commutes to work and gets stuck in rush hour every day and would much rather be spending that time with their family,” Portman said.
The infrastructure bill’s expected passage comes after months of work that featured assorted disputes that repeatedly threatened to derail the proposal.
Lawmakers wrestled over the details of its drinking and wastewater system funding, its approach to broadband and the level of support for public transit.
A number of those conflicts arose between the moderate lawmakers involved in the bipartisan negotiating group and top leaders on the committees of jurisdiction, some of whom complained that members without the requisite expertise had wandered onto their turf.
One key dispute involved one of the measure’s budget offsets — tax reporting requirements on cryptocurrency transactions.
Critics say those requirements are written in a way that’s overly broad, threatening to sweep up those only tangentially involved in the relevant transactions and thereby stifling a promising, nascent technology.
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., announced a deal Monday between lawmakers and the Biden administration to address the issue, but he was blocked when he tried to make the fix by unanimous consent.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., sought to incorporate into Toomey’s proposal his own amendment to provide an additional $50 billion to the Defense Department.
Toomey agreed, but that prompted Democrats to block the entire request.
Overall, the Senate had managed to consider 22 amendments to the infrastructure measure before that process ground to a halt last week, a victim of both Senate procedures and the competing demands of senators pressing for votes on their particular amendments.
Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., cited a Congressional Budget Office analysis that found the bill would add $256 billion to the deficit over 10 years as he blocked any move to expedite the process by unanimous consent, dragging the entire exercise into this week.
Despite the standoff, the legislation gathered some additional Republican votes as it went along, even as it lost others.
Among those falling away was Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., originally a member of the 22-member bipartisan negotiating group.
He said on the floor Monday he joined the discussions because infrastructure is important to his state.
But he objected to the bill’s impact on budget deficits and characterized it as setting up the budget resolution, which he said would include items that had been negotiated out of the bipartisan proposal.
“So, the bipartisan nature of the agreement is in many ways, offset by the bill that follows,” Moran said.