Senate on infrastructure: Late nights and early mornings

Senators were back at work Sunday and laboring toward eventual passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, with the Democratic leadership vowing to stay as long as it takes to overcome Republican holdouts who want to drag out final votes on one of President Joe Biden's top priorities.

Senate on infrastructure: Late nights and early mornings

Senators were back at work Sunday and laboring toward eventual passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, with the Democratic leadership vowing to stay as long as it takes to overcome Republican holdouts who want to drag out final votes on one of President Joe Biden's top priorities.

TheEditor
TheEditor
08 August 2021 Sunday 15:13
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Senate on infrastructure: Late nights and early mornings

Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y. Majority Leader) stressed to his colleagues that they could go the "easy or hard way" while some GOP senators seemed determined to push the deadline for days.

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

Biden called the measure a historic investment in public works programs, calling it roads, bridges and broadband internet access. The measure was pushed forward by Republicans and Democrats in a rare act of bipartisanship. The bill will be sent to the House if it is approved.

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

Despite the overwhelming support, momentum was slowed down when a few Republican senators refused hours of debate time before the next procedural vote. The opposition was slowing down what supporters hoped would be swift passage and setting up late night and early day sessions in a long, tedious slog. The final passage would be moved to Tuesday.

Senator Bill Cassidy (Republican from Louisiana), was a negotiator for the bill. He said that 17-18 Republicans had indicated their support for the bill, which would ensure its eventual passage. Cassidy stated, "It could move faster, but it is going," and added, "And that’s the good news, it’s going."

Senators met for the second consecutive weekend in order to discuss the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This was the first of Biden’s two infrastructure packages. 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.

Senator Bill Hagerty (Republican from Tennessee), an ally to Donald Trump, and former ambassador to Japan was one of the leaders in the effort to allow as much time as possible to debate and amend this bipartisan bill.

Hagerty stated that there is no need to hurry during Saturday's floor speech.

Trump released a statement critiquing Biden, senators from both parties, and the bill, but it wasn't clear if the former president's views still hold weight over the legislators.

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 60-vote hurdle was overcome as a sign that Republicans and Democrats can hold onto the public works package. In all, 18 Republicans joined Democrats on the 67-27 vote to push the measure past a filibuster.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has so far allowed the bill to progress, despite the broadsides and name-calling coming from the former president. His Saturday vote -- another "yes", was closely monitored. McConnell stated, "This is a compromise."

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.

Sunday could see more amendments, with senators looking at revisions to a section about cryptocurrency. This long-shot effort of defense hawks is to add $50 billion to defense-related infrastructure. A bipartisan amendment will also be considered to repurpose some of the COVID-19 relief assistance that was sent to the States.

A second important procedural vote was scheduled for Sunday night.

The bill has been well received by senators. It is not perfect for liberals who consider it too small or conservatives who find 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.

Cassidy spoke to CNN's "State of the Union", while Buttigieg spoke to Fox News Sunday.

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