Senate eyes taking up bipartisan infrastructure deal as soon as July 19
A bipartisan infrastructure agreement could be brought up on the Senate floor as soon as the week of July 19, a source confirmed to The Hill.
The bipartisan group of negotiators is still working to turn their $1.2-trillion, eight-year framework into legislation. But the source said that the Senate “could move to” the bipartisan deal as soon as the week of July 19 “as part of the two track strategy to move both the budget resolution and [bipartisan] bill through the Senate in the upcoming work period.”
The Senate is in the middle of the two-week July 4 recess, though senators have been holding a flurry of calls both amongst themselves and with the White House as they try to lock down text of the bipartisan agreement that a core group of Senate negotiators and President Biden announced at the White House late last month.
They are under a tight deadline. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to bring up both the bipartisan agreement, if it sticks together, and a budget resolution that will unlock a separate, Democratic-only, multi-trillion infrastructure bill before the Senate leaves town until September.
The Senate will return on Monday, with lawmakers scheduled to stay in town through the first week of August. That means the bipartisan deal could come to the floor as soon as the second week in session. Schumer has vowed that he will move both the budget resolution and the bipartisan deal during the upcoming work period, but hasn’t announced the sequencing of which he will bring to the floor first.
“Our plan continues to have a budget resolution and a bipartisan bill on the floor of the Senate in July. Everyone in our caucus knows you can’t do one without the other,” Schumer told reporters before the two-week break.
The tentative timeline for taking up the bipartisan deal was first reported by Politico, which noted it was discussed in a call on Wednesday between the White House and Hill Democrats. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
But the bipartisan group has been working behind the scenes to try to craft their legislation.
“We are working to craft this into legislation that is lean and effective,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is spearheading the effort with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), told an Arizona radio station this week.
The bipartisan framework also picked up its 22nd Senate supporter, with Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) joining the Senate gang, Sinema’s and Rosen’s offices told The Hill on Wednesday. Though a core group of 10 senators negotiated with the White House, a broader group of 21 indicated in mid-June that they supported the framework in the wake of the deal with Biden.
But the Senate group also faces skepticism from both sides of the aisle over some of the proposed pay-fors for their agreement, setting up potential hurdles as they try to get to the 60 votes needed for their bill to pass the Senate and figure out a way to cover the deal’s hundreds of billions in new spending.
Republicans have also warned against it being linked to the separate, significantly larger package that Democrats are going to try to pass along party lines that will encompass broad swaths of Biden’s jobs and families plans and potentially go further.
Schumer hasn’t said when he would bring up the Democratic-only bill, though it is expected to wait until the fall. Instead, Senate Budget Committee Democrats, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), are working to craft a budget resolution that will set up and detail the instructions for passing the subsequent Democratic-only bill.
As part of that budget resolution, committee Democrats will need to agree to a top-line figure, something they hope to have worked out by the time the Senate returns next week. That would pave the way for meeting Schumer’s pledge to give the resolution a vote before senators leave in early August.
“You need that and you need some sense of what the big buckets are,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the panel, told reporters late last week, about the top-line figure. “I think the key here is let’s all get on the same page on this side.”
Democrats will use the process known as reconciliation, which allows them to bypass a GOP filibuster, to try to pass the separate larger infrastructure package. But to do that they’ll need total unity from their 50-member Senate caucus first on the budget resolution and then on the infrastructure bill itself.
Sanders has said he wants to go as high as $6 trillion. While Democrats have acknowledged they are not likely to go that high, they will need to find a way to reconcile the demands from progressives with moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has put himself closer to $2 trillion.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed in Kentucky this week that Republicans would wage a “hell of a fight” over Democrats’ plan to use reconciliation to pass the more sweeping infrastructure package along party lines.
“There is a process by which they could pass this without a single Republican. But we’re going to make it hard for them. And there are a few Democrats left in rural American and some others who would like to be more in the political center who may find this offensive,” McConnell added.