U.S. Senate strikes infrastructure invoice nearer to passage with key procedural vote

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to reporters about the bipartisan infrastructure bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 28, 2021.

Elizabeth Frantz | Reuters

The U.S. Senate on Saturday voted in favor of a $ 1 trillion infrastructure package, a procedural but important step forward after months of negotiations between President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of Senators.

In a 67-27 vote demonstrating widespread bipartisan support, the Senators agreed to curtail debate on legislation, which marks the largest investment in America’s physical infrastructure in decades, including roads, bridges, airports and waterways.

The timing for adoption remained unclear, however, as lawmakers prepared for possible votes on amendments and worked behind closed doors on an agreement that would allow the Senate to quickly complete its work on the legislation.

“We can do this the easy way. In any case, the Senate will remain in session until we finish our work,” said Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a pre-vote speech. “It’s up to my Republican colleagues how long it takes.”

The passage would be a huge victory for Schumer, Biden, and a bipartisan group of Senators who spent months working out the package and getting the bill forward to the House of Representatives.

The Chamber’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, signaled his support for the law.

“Republicans and Democrats have radically different visions these days, but both visions involve physical infrastructure that works for all of our citizens,” McConnell said in a pre-vote speech. “The investments that this bill will make are not only necessary, but in many cases overdue. Our country has a real need in this area.”

After hours of negotiation behind closed doors, the Senators couldn’t agree on one final series of changes on Thursday before many lawmakers left town to attend former Senator Mike Enzi’s funeral in Wyoming on Friday. 22 amendments have already been discussed.

Unless all 100 senators agree to repeal rules for the legislative process, the Senate will have to hold a series of procedural votes that could delay a vote on the passage until Monday or Tuesday.

Progress has been held back by a spate of disagreement over calls for new Defense Department improvements and cryptocurrency legislation.

Republican Senator Bill Hagerty, who was former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Japan before replacing former Senator Lamar Alexander, was also reluctant after the bipartisan Congressional budget bureau said Thursday that the law would reduce the federal budget deficit for 10 years would increase by $ 256 billion.

The CBO analysis did not include the additional $ 57 billion in revenue that Senators estimated Washington would generate in the long term from the economic growth benefits of infrastructure projects. It also didn’t count $ 53 billion in unused additional federal unemployment benefits to be returned by the states.

So far, the current bill has attracted support from enough Republicans to comfortably cross the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, along with the unanimous support of the Chamber’s 50 Democrats.

But the bill is still being opposed by most of the Senate’s 50 Republicans and Trump, who has regularly beaten moderate Republicans and McConnell for their support.

Trump made infrastructure spending a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign, but never made it a priority after taking office and was unable to get legislation through Congress.

Some top Republicans believe Saturday’s vote to limit the debate could be a turning point.

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