$1 trillion infrastructure bill heads for Senate debate

Politics

FILE PHOTO: Vehicles are parked outside the U.S. Capitol building the morning the Senate returned to session in Washington, DC, U.S., July 31, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — U.S. senators introduced a sweeping $1-trillion bipartisan plan to invest in roads, bridges, ports, high-speed internet and other infrastructure, with some predicting the chamber could pass this week the largest public works legislation in decades.

The massive infrastructure package, a goal that has eluded Congress for years, is a top legislative priority for President Joe Biden, who billed it on Sunday as the largest such investment in a century.

Senators said the 2,702-page bill included $550 billion in new spending over five years for items such as roads, rail, electric vehicle charging stations and replacing lead water pipes on top of $450 billion in previously approved funds.

“I believe we can quickly process relevant amendments and pass this bill in days,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said of the legislation after it was announced by a bipartisan group of senators.

“This is a really important bill because it takes our big, aging and outdated infrastructure in this country and modernizes it. That’s good for everybody,” said Sen. Rob Portman, the lead Republican negotiator.

However, some Republicans criticized the bill as too costly.

“I’ve got real concerns with this bill,” Republican Sen. Mike Lee said in a floor speech. “All is not well with the way we spend money.”

It was not yet clear whether senators outside the bipartisan group that negotiated the bill will offer amendments that could possibly upset the delicate coalition that was cobbled together.

If the bill passes the Senate, it must be considered in the House of Representatives, where some Democrats have criticized it as too small and the Democratic leadership has paired it with a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill to pour money into education, child care, climate change and other priorities.

Democrats want to offset that social spending with tax hikes on corporations and wealthy Americans earning more than $400,000 a year, measures opposed by Republicans, leaving the fate of both bills up in the air.

Schumer said a final vote could be held “in a matter of days.”

“Let’s start voting on amendments,” Schumer said as the Senate opened for business on Monday. “The longer it takes to finish the bill, the longer we will be here.”

Sunday night’s developments capped months of negotiating, and infighting, among several groups of senators and the White House.

Initially, Biden said he was seeking about $2 trillion in a bipartisan bill, an amount that Republicans rejected as wasteful and unnecessary.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate, and the conservative Portman toiled for months, adding input from House centrists, on a new plan closer to what Biden would accept.

Late in June the group said it had reached a $1.2-trillion deal, but filling in details took more than a month.

Last week, 17 GOP senators joined all Democrats in voting to start work on the bipartisan bill. That support largely held, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voting yes in another procedural vote to nudge the process along in the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster and advance legislation.

With prodding from Schumer and Biden, the negotiators put their staffs to work, nearly around the clock, culminating in Sunday’s final deal.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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