The Senate voted 67-32 yesterday to move forward on a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, clearing the first hurdle toward passage after weeks of negotiations.
The bipartisan package is still being drafted but would reportedly use more than $200 billion in unused COVID-19 aid money as its main financing mechanism to fix roads, bridges, water systems, sea ports, airports and broadband Internet access in need of investment. Other “pay-fors” in the bill could include changes to prescription drug rules and money from unused unemployment benefits. Notably, the legislation is not expected to include any tax increases on wealthy Americans or corporations, which are opposed by Republican leaders.
Though final passage remains uncertain, the procedural vote yesterday drew support from 17 Republican senators including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had vowed to oppose key Democratic priorities put forward by President Biden and congressional Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he plans to pass both the infrastructure package and a budget resolution that will be used to advance a separate $3.5 trillion social spending plan before the August recess.
“I want to commend the group of senators with worked with President Biden,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) after the vote. “My goal remains to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution this work period. Both. It might take some long nights, it might eat into our weekends, but we are going to get the job done. And we are on track.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), a lead Republican negotiator on the infrastructure deal, expressed confidence that any lingering disagreements over how to pay for the package will be resolved.
“At a time when Washington seems broken, this group of members…came together, along with others, and decided we are going to do something great for our country,” Portman said. “Despite the popularity of it, and the need for it, Washington hasn’t been able to get it done. This time we’re going to get it done.”